Early Lead Exposure Negatively Affects Lives Decades Later: Study
The ongoing health catastrophe in Flint, Mich., in which untold thousands of adults and children were exposed to lead-tainted water for months o end, cast a harsh light on the dangers of the potent neurotoxin. Now, new research suggests that kids with elevated blood-lead levels at age 11 have lower cognitive function than their parents, and often end up in lower-status, lower-paying jobs.
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, were based on a study of around 1,000 children born in New Zealand in the 1970s. More than half were tested for lead in 1983. Almost three decades later, the kids who had higher blood-lead levels when young were more likely to have lower IQs than those with lower lead levels. The former also ended up in less stable economic circumstances than their peers in the study.
“Lead damages brain health,” said Aaron Reuben, a graduate student in clinical psychology at Duke University and study co-author, quoted by the Washington Post. “What we didn’t know until this study was, how long do those effects last? There’s no reason to believe they ever go away.”
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