Recent studies have shown that lead causes oxidative stress by inducing the generation of reactive oxygen species, reducing the antioxidant defense system of cells via depleting glutathione, inhibiting sulfhydryl-dependent enzymes, interfering with some essential metals needed for antioxidant enzyme activities, and/or increasing susceptibility of cells to oxidative attack by altering the membrane integrity and fatty acid composition. Consequently, it is plausible that impaired oxidant/antioxidant balance can be partially responsible for the toxic effects of lead. Where enhanced oxidative stress contributes to lead-induced toxicity, restoration of a cell's antioxidant capacity appears to provide a partial remedy. Several studies are underway to determine the effect of antioxidant supplementation following lead exposure. Data suggest that antioxidants may play an important role in abating some hazards of lead. To explain the importance of using antioxidants in treating lead poisoning the following topics are addressed: (i) Oxidative damage caused by lead poisoning; (ii) conventional treatment of lead poisoning and its side effects; and (iii) possible protective effects of antioxidants in lead toxicity. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc.