Lead is an environmental hazard that should be addressed worldwide. Over time, human lead exposure in the western world has decreased drastically to levels comparable to those among humans living in the preindustrial era, who were mainly exposed to natural sources of lead. To re-evaluate the potential health risks associated with present-day lead exposure, a two-pronged approach was applied. First, recently published population metrics describing the adverse health effects associated with lead exposure at the population level were critically assessed. Next, the key results of the Study for Promotion of Health in Recycling Lead (SPHERL; NCT02243904) were summarized and put in perspective with those of the published population metrics. To our knowledge, SPHERL is the first prospective study that accounted for interindividual variability between people with respect to their vulnerability to the toxic effects of lead exposure by assessing the participants’ health status before and after occupational lead exposure. The overall conclusion of this comprehensive review is that mainstream ideas about the public and occupational health risks related to lead exposure urgently need to be updated because a large portion of the available literature became obsolete given the sharp decrease in exposure levels over the past 40 years.
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