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No lead is better than a little lead
  1. Bernard M Y Cheung,
  2. Tommy T Cheung
  1. Department of Medicine, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  1. Correspondence to Professor Bernard M Y Cheung, Department of Medicine, University of Hong Kong,Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong SAR, China; mycheung{at}

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Lead (plumbum)has been around in our surroundings since Roman times. The ancient Romans embraced lead in a big way, using it in water pipes and cooking utensils, and also sweetening their wines with it. The Victorian era saw huge improvements in sanitation, but also the laying of many lead pipes. Lead crystal has a high refractive index and sparkles like gems, which may explain why lead was used in glassware, ceramics and paint. In the 20th century, tetraethyl lead was added to petrol as an antiknock agent. It was not that long ago when leaded and lead-free petrol were sold side by side at petrol stations.

Yet, the toxicity of lead, such as causing colic and anaemia, has been known since ancient times. The League of Nations, the precursor of the United Nations, banned lead-containing white paint for interiors back in 1922. Lead’s many …

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  • Contributors BMYC drafted the manuscript and acts as the corresponding author. TTC critically read and revised the manuscript prior to submission.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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