Get the Lead Out
Just as the Christmas toy season rolls around, a new study says that childhood lead exposure can cause permanent brain damage.
Researchers from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center say there is no region of the brain that is spared from the ravages of lead exposure.
In a news release, lead researcher, Kim Cecil, says different areas of the brain are affected differently.
In the study, 33 adults with an average age of 21, who had been enrolled since they were infants in a long-term Cincinnati Lead Study, were tested for lead in their blood. The participants had blood levels of lead ranging from 5 to 37 micrograms per deciliter, with an average of 14.
Study author Cecil says that while the brain’s white matter adapts to lead exposure, an MRI showed that the frontal lobe, the last area of the brain to mature, suffered permanent damage.
Tasks that required attention, decision making, and impulse control had to draw from additional regions of the brain, which showed as activated areas on the MRI scan. Specifically, a task that involved inhibition, those with elevated blood levels required activation from regions within the frontal and parietal lobes.
"This tells us that the area of the brain responsible for inhibition is damaged by lead exposure and that other regions of the brain must compensate in order for an individual to perform. However, the compensation is not sufficient," Dr. Cecil said in a statement.
The participants had enrolled in the study because they were from high-risk areas of Cincinnati that had older homes more likely to be associated with lead-containing paint used in the 1950s. Today they show IQ deficiencies, antisocial behavior, and a history of crime as juveniles and adults.
The objective of the Cincinnati Lead Study, to see if early exposure to lead was associated with criminal behavior, found for the first time an association between developmental exposure to lead and adult criminal behavior.
"Many people think that once lead blood levels decrease, the effects should be reversible, but, in fact, lead
exposure has harmful and lasting effects," she said.
The study was presented Tuesday at the Radiological Society of North America, meeting in Chicago.
Lead is known to also be harmful to adults who may show symptoms including: difficulty during pregnancy, reproductive problems, high blood pressure, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems and muscle and joint pain.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital recommends you have young children tested for lead as a precaution, even if they seem healthy.
And your home can be checked for lead hazards including the water, faucets and dust, which can harbor lead. Wash surfaces and floors often and wipe shoes before coming into the house.
The entire family should wash their hands before eating and going to bed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates almost 900,000 children up to the age of five, live in homes that have elevated lead levels and one in 11 children has dangerous levels of lead in their systems.
Lead has also been linked to an eight-fold increase in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to research out of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Eliminating the exposure in the environment could reduce ADHD cases in children by about 35 percent concluded the research. #