Moonshine, Lead Poisoning, and Pragmatism

Larry R. Kirkland, MD
Arch Intern Med. 1994;154(3):348. doi:10.1001/archinte.1994.00420030164021.
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The article "Elevated Blood Lead Levels Associated With Illegally Distilled Alcohol"1 brought back memories and an old idea. During my residency from 1964 to 1966 at University Hospital (UH) in Birmingham, Ala, we saw a steady stream of patients admitted for moonshine-induced lead poisoning, both at UH and at the affiliated Veterans Administration Hospital (BVAH). In 1967, 3.6% (98 of 2734) of the admissions to the Medical Service of the BVAH were for chronic lead intoxication.2 These patients were the clinical material for a great deal of research.2-4 This recent article1 shows that the problem in Alabama has not improved. Since smashing stills does not seem to help much, are other preventive measures possible?

The "old idea" was that of a fellow resident, Paul Stabler, MD. During a time of frustration over the number of these patients, he did a brief (unpublished) cost-effectiveness "study," comparing hospitalization


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