1994 Houk Award Recipient




The first Vernon Houk Award was presented at the Annual Meeting of SOEH in December to Professor Wu YiQun of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Beijing. President Joe LaDou presented the award, which is jointly sponsored by The Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning and SOEH to a key international figure in the prevention of lead poisoning.

Professor Wu YiQun, who directs China’s biologic monitoring program, recognized the inaccuracy of lead determinations and the need for a reference laboratory for blood and urine lead determinations. She pursued a fellowship at the International Center for Occupational Medicine at the University of California in San Francisco, where she perfected the necessary laboratory skills and developed methods appropriate to the Chinese conditions. She then returned to China and, in the short period of two years, she established and now directs 125 provincial laboratories.

Professor Wu then performed an occupational and environmental lead study of workers and citizens of all regions of China. Her work clearly showed that the older literature on lead exposure in China was so inaccurate as to be largely uninterpretable. Her studies in the past two years demonstrate a severe problem with occupational lead exposure and an equally alarming problem with adult lead exposure. She is now establishing a childhood lead screening program to document for her government the need to prevent childhood lead poisoning.

At the award ceremony, Professor Wu noted that "receiving the Vernon Houk Award for my work in public health not only recognizes my accomplishment, but that of my country, China. In China, we chelate workers by the thousands with little more than clinical features to guide us. Our problem with lead poisoning is similar to the conditions Alice Hamilton described in Chicago over 70 years ago." Having studied a number of factories, Professor Wu now has the sense that lead poisoning occurs in China in epidemic proportions. "For most workers, my measurements of blood lead were the first experience their doctors have had with accurate diagnosis...Your recognition of my work may help me influence my government to support efforts in China to prevent lead poisoning in workers...China has many environmental problems accompanying its industrialization, but the release of environmental lead may well become the worst problem we have yet faced."







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