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Moonshine, Lead Poisoning, and Pragmatism-Reply

David A. Pegues, MD; Charles H. Woernle, MD, MPH
Arch Intern Med. 1994;154(3):351. doi:10.1001/archinte.1994.00420030164022.
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We thank Kirkland for his letter in which he proposes a provocative approach to decreasing the risk of lead poisoning associated with the consumption of "moonshine" alcohol in Alabama. Kirkland emphasizes that the problem is not a new one. Kirkland advocates the substitution of copper coil for lead-containing automobile radiators used in the distillation of moonshine and draws an analogy to needle-exchange programs for injecting drug users. Needle-exchange programs have been advocated by some persons to prevent the person-to-person transmission of blood-borne pathogens, including human immunodeficiency virus. Like needle exchange, substitution of copper coil may decrease the risk of adverse health events (ie, lead poisoning) associated with the use of an illicit substance. However, apart from public health implications, substantial political, legal, and logistic barriers stand in the way of implementing such a program. "Lead-free" alcohol can be purchased legally—the distillation, distribution, sale, and consumption of moonshine are illegal activities


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