Childhood Lead Poisoning Linked To Permanent Brain Damage

A new study has revealed that <"">childhood exposure to lead can lead to permanent brain damage, US News and World Report writes.

“What we have found is that no region of the brain is spared from lead exposure. Distinct areas of the brain are affected differently,” study author Kim Cecil, quoted US News. Cecil is an imaging scientist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and a professor of radiology, pediatrics and neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, said US News, citing a news release.

We have long written that exposure to lead in children can cause brain and nervous system damage, behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, headaches, mental and physical retardation, and behavioral and other health problems. Lead is also known to cause cancer and reproductive harm. We have also long stressed that, once poisoned by lead, no organ system is immune, particularly the developing brain because negative influences can have long-lasting effects and can continue well into puberty and beyond.

The new study looked at 33 adults with an average age of 21, who were all enrolled when they were babies in the long-term Cincinnati Lead Study, said US News. That study analyzed prenatal and early childhood exposure in 376 infants between 1979 and 1987 and who lived in what US News said were high-risk Cincinnati locations. The participants tested with blood lead levels from 5 to 37 micrograms per deciliter—a mean of 14—and also tested with IQ deficiencies and were linked to “juvenile delinquency and criminal arrests,” said US News.

Functional MRI scans were used to test the brains of the participants while specific tasks were attempted that relied on attention, decision-making, and impulse control, said US News. Cecil noted 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, quoted US News. It seems, said Cecil, that the last area of the brain to develop—the frontal lobe—appears to receive permanent damage from exposure to the toxin when it is maturing, said Science Daily.

“Many people think that once lead blood levels decrease, the effects should be reversible, but, in fact, lead exposure has harmful and lasting effects,” Cecil said, quoted Science Daily.

Of concern is that items, including children’s toys, keep turning up in the market with lead levels in excess of federally mandated lead standards.

For instance, we recently wrote that a public interest group found that some toys being sold at popular retailers violate current mandates. A significant issue given that we are in the midst of the heaviest shopping season of the year. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) released its report—“Trouble in Toyland”—in which it stated that although many stores and toy makers are in compliance with the laws, some are not. This is problematic because it is virtually impossible for consumers to determine which toys are and are not safe.

In 2008, nearly 80 percent of all product recalls in the United States involved imports from China, including a wide array of toys in violation with lead paint standards.

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