Canadian Environmental Health Atlas

Understanding Our Environment is Key to Promoting Health and Preventing Disease

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Herbert Needleman

Herbert Needleman

Herbert Needleman (Figure 1) is a pediatrician, child psychiatrist, and researcher who worked tirelessly to reduce childhood lead exposures in the United States. His research in the 1970s was the first to show convincingly that lead exposure, even at extremely low levels, could affect a child’s IQ and behaviours. Follow-up studies confirmed the harmful and persistent effects of lead exposure in children. Needleman’s work—in concert with the work of other lead experts—led governments to develop guidelines for diagnosis and management of childhood lead poisoning, to ban lead in house paints, and to remove lead from gasoline. Initially his work came under attack from industry-funded researchers and he was accused of scientific misconduct, but he was ultimately exonerated and received numerous public health awards.