Needleman, Herbert L.
Interview Date
January 3, 1997
Respondent Physician and researcher, born: 1927.
[T1S1] Respondent provides background information on family: father, Joseph; mother, Sonia Shupak Needleman; 1 brother; gives wife's name: Roberta Pizer Needleman, 3 children, 1 from previous marriage. Respondent born in Philadelphia, PA; lists schools attended, graduated University of Pennsylvania school of medicine, 1952: pediatrics. Respondent explains being called in doctor's draft, 1957. Respondent discusses interest in lead poisoning: leading to research and treatment. Respondent notes testing children for lead poisoning, then observing behavioral changes in inner city children and how much of it was due to lead poisoning; pursued a 2<sup>nd</sup> specialty: psychiatry. Respondent notes upon entering pediatrics, blood level of 60 micrograms per 100 cc was toxic level, past 25-30 years, toxic level dropped to 1/6. Respondent comments on research at Temple Community Mental Health Center (Philadelphia, PA) late 1960s; learned children at peak exposure 13-30 months; notes blood test primary way for diagnosing; lead stays in blood short time, washes out and enters other tissues such as bone. Respondent recounts invitation to Harvard University to study lead levels in inner city students in upper and lower percentiles of their class; found high level lead toxicity related to behavior as well as performance and IQ; developed questionnaire for teachers, helpful in research. Respondent names sources of high level lead including houses built before 1950-1960. Respondent mentions Bar Mitzvah; member Rodef Shalom Temple; discusses political activity: anti-Vietnam demonstrations, explains chairmanship of Committee of Responsibility: responsible for bringing burned Vietnamese children to U. S. and providing plastic surgery. Respondent reminisces about growing up in Philadelphia, friends acquired, recreation and awards received; notes interest in science and medicine at age 10; discusses activities with extended family, mother living, age 91. Respondent notes 2 sons physicians, daughter, lawyer.
[T1S2] Respondent discusses courtship and marriage to first wife, 1949; divorced, 1959, 1 son; recounts meeting second wife, marriage: 1963; provides names and birth dates of children. Respondent describes relationship with children, notes father hard worker, spent little time with Respondent; discusses opinions on child rearing: materialism and commercialism major issue, children need guidance and boundaries. Respondent expresses pride in creation of Israel; views successes and accomplishments; notes Pittsburgh. friendly city, lacks creativity, needs products and jobs; comments on Global economy: serious problem.
[T2S3] Respondent repeats information from previous tape, contrasts Pittsburgh. with Philadelphia, discusses various relocations of parents. Respondent discusses treatments available for lead poisoning; childhood lead recognized 100 years ago, first reported in U.S.: 1914; notes lead remains in soft tissues from several months to several years. Respondent describes current laboratory research: learning what lead poisoning does to college students; its affect on their behavior; measures with x-ray type equipment amount of lead in their bones.
[T2S4] Respondent notes wife active at Rodef Shalom Temple; gives her occupation: social worker with Allegheny County Health Department. Respondent notes speaking to Government agencies: trying to shed new light on lead toxicity; HMO's having negative affect; comments on merger of hospitals and involvement of health insurance; conflict of interest when hospitals own insurance companies.
Lead poisoning; Philadelphia (Pa.); Physicians; Medicine; Pediatrics; Pediatricians; Psychiatry
Birth Date
Philadelphia, PA
University of Pittsburgh
Squirrel Hill
Occupation (father)
Length (hours)
Dickman, Gene
Belov, Leonard
Berger, Betty
Collateral Materials
Box 104 FF 40
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