The Journal of Science of Labour
Online ISSN : 2187-2570
Print ISSN : 0022-443X
Topics and Opinions
Questions about Hirai’s Lead-poisoning Theory of So-called Meningitis in Infancy (Lead Encephalopathy) Presented by Kenichiro Takasu and Others Published in Acta Paediatrica Japonica
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2011 Volume 87 Issue 1 Pages 20-35


We have sketched the history of lead-poisoning in Japanese children in the serial form in the Journal of Science of Labour. In 1923, Professor Ikutaro Hirai firstly reported in a pediatric journal, Acta Paediatrica Japonica, that the so-called meningitis in infancy (SCMI) was a chronic lead-poisoning disease caused by white lead in the mothers’ face powder. Many studies on SCMI have been published since 1923. Although the majority of the researchers supported Hirai’s theory, some insisted that SCMI was not a chronic lead-poisoning disease and/or that other factors in the face powder might cause SCMI. The outline of the zincpoisoning theory, advocated by Naomutsu Okubo who did not accept Hirai’s theory, was given in the previous article in the Journal of Science of Labour. In this article, we examined the questions presented by Kenichiro Takasu, Yasuhei Tani, Mitsunori Karasawa and Muneyoshi Nagahama about the lead-poisoning theory. Takasu did not accept the Hirai’s leadpoisoning theory. Tani, Karasawa and Nagahama suggested the difficulty in differential diagnosis of SCMI and chronic lead-poisoning disease, the presence of other candidate factors causing SCMI, inconsistent pathological findings of the brain, etc. Professor Hirai answered in detail to these questions or comments, especially to the questions in the three articles of Takasu, which will be discussed in the next article. After such a fierce controversy, the chronic lead-poisoning was established as the cause of SCMI.

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© 2011 The Institute for Science of Labour
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