Study Finds Even "Safe" Lead Levels Harm Kids

Current “safe” <"">lead levels are believed to be more dangerous than first thought, according to emerging research. The BBC reported that researchers have concluded that lead’s toxic effect on the central nervous system are apparent even below currently approved levels and should be “halved.”

The study was conducted at the University of Bristol Centre for Child and Adolescent Health to determine the effect on behavior and intellectual development in children who were known to have ingested lead in amounts under 10 micrograms per deciliter, which is just below the safe levels in that country, said the BBC. The study appears in the journal, Archives of Diseases in Childhood.

The researchers took blood from 582 children aged 30 months and found that 28 measured with lead levels higher than five micrograms per deciliter, reported the BBC. Following the children’s progress and assessing academic and behavioral markers when the children were seven-to-eight years old, links to antisocial behavior and hyperactivity were found in relation to the 30-month testing five years later, said the BBC.

Levels at five and 10 micrograms per deciliter were also linked with significantly poorer reading (49 percent) and writing (51 percent) scores, said the BBC. At 10 micrograms per deciliter, the children experienced a drop of one-third of a grade in their Scholastic Assessment Tests (SATs); higher than this, children exhibited antisocial behavior and hyperactivity at a three-fold rate versus children with lower blood lead levels.

As we have often written, lead is considered by many experts to be one of the most important chronic environmental illnesses affecting children today. Unfortunately, despite efforts to control lead exposure, serious cases still occur. Lead effects were first discussed in Australia in 1892, said the BBC, which added that in the United Kingdom, lead has been removed from paint and petrol (gasoline). In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said the BBC, dropped its “level of concern for blood” lead levels to 10 micrograms per deciliter.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about half of all urban children world-wide and under the age of five test with blood lead levels higher than the CDC’s safe limit, reported the BBC.

Exposure to lead in children and unborn 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. Once poisoned by lead, no organ system is immune. Of particular concern is the developing brain because negative influences can have long-lasting effects and can continue well into puberty and beyond, which is further evidenced by this recent study.

Lead poisoning is said to be the most common environmental illness in children in the U.S. and—although occurring in all groups—frequency varies with age, socioeconomic status, community population, race, and the age of the home. The AP reported that tens of thousands of new cases turn up annually via physician office blood tests; health officials believe that at least 240,000 children—most not diagnosed—could be suffering from the effects of lead exposure. The CDC says that in the most dangerous cases of lead exposure coma, convulsions, and death can occur and that even at less fatal exposures, intelligence and hearing can be impaired, to name just two, according to the AP.

This entry was posted in Toxic Substances. Bookmark the permalink.

© 2005-2019 Parker Waichman LLP ®. All Rights Reserved.