Childhood lead exposure linked to lower adult IQ

Childhood lead exposure linked to lower adult IQ”

Researchers also had only a snapshot of lead levels from the tests taken when the children were 11, and there was no way to measure their cumulative lead exposures by the time they were 38, Reuben said.

New Zealand's lead levels were consistently higher than worldwide standards during the 1970s and 1980s, largely due to motor vehicle exhaust fumes, said a statement from the University of Otago which compiled the data.

Aaron Reuben, M.E.M., of Duke University, Durham, N.C., and colleagues conducted a study that included participants of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, an investigation of health and behavior of individuals born between April 1972 and March 1973 in Dunedin, New Zealand. At 11, 565 of the children had blood samples taken for analysis. Participants completed IQ tests as children and had their blood tested for lead at age 11. More than half were tested for lead in 1983, and almost three decades later, those who'd had higher blood-lead levels as children were more likely to have lower IQs and to wind up lower on the socioeconomic ladder.

"This is despite the fact that in the 1970s this same study [the Dunedin Study] was one of the best in the world at showing that lead was damaging the IQ of children".

And 94 percent of children had blood-lead levels greater than five micrograms per deciliter, the level at which the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends to be a public-health intervention. It found that children who drank Flint water had a 50% higher risk of dangerously elevated blood lead levels than before the switch.

Exposure to lead during childhood has a negative impact on cognitive function and socioeconomic status three decades on, scientists have shown.

"This research shows how far-sighted New Zealand was when the country banned leaded petrol in 1996", Prof Moffit said. Such test is created to be a rough indicator of lead exposure in the months before the blood is drawn and tested.

Researchers in New Zealand and in the United States looked at children born in two cities across two continents for more than 30 years. The children growing up in 1970s New Zealand likely experienced ongoing lead exposures during childhood, mainly from emissions in the air.

The researchers also compared changes in social standing using the New Zealand Socio-economic Index. Children playing outside were prone to either breathe in lead-laden dust, or swallow small amounts of leaded soil.

"Regardless of where you start in life, lead is going to exert a downward pull", said Avshalom Caspi, Edward M. Arnett Professor of psychology & neuroscience and psychiatry & behavioral sciences at Duke, who is a co-author on the paper.

Main author Aaron Reuben, a Duke PhD candidate, says the lower occupational status is "partially but significantly explained by the loss of IQ".

The effects of lead on the participants was "slight, but significant", particularly as lead levels in NZ during the 1970s and 1980s were higher than global standards. Researchers tested the participants' IQ again at age 38.

'The cognitive deficits associated with lead persisted for decades, and showed in the kinds of occupations people got, ' he said.

Children who were over 10 micrograms of lead attained occupations with socioeconomic status levels lower than those of their parents.

The research unit is supported by the New Zealand Health Research Council and New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Childhood exposure to powerful neurotoxins such as lead may adversely affect brain health and result in lower IQs later in life, a new study has warned.

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