How Lead Affects IQ
As reported in Environmental Health News, research from Harvard University and Children’s Hospital Boston has uncovered new evidence that prolonged lead exposure by children as old as 10, even at low levels, can lower IQ into adulthood. Previous research and even current CDC guidance has focused on exposure to children 6 and under. This evidence underscores the opportunity to protect your child’s lifelong brain health and IQ by eliminating lead exposure up to ages of 10 or older, even if a child has already been exposed at younger ages.
Microscopic lead paint dust, when accidentally ingested through normal hand-to-mouth activity, is broken down in the digestive system allowing the toxic, elemental lead to be absorbed into the blood stream. Lead is mistaken by the human body for calcium because of chemical similarities, and thus readily absorbed and transmitted throughout the body. A powerful neurotoxin, lead prevents normal brain and nervous system development as children grow, leading to lower IQ as well as lasting attention and behavior disorders and poor performance in school.
Is My Child’s Blood Lead Level Dangerous?
In 2012 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dramatically lowered the reference level for lead in children’s blood from 10 to 5 (measured in micrograms per decileter). It is critical for parents and physicians to understand that the new reference level of 5 is intended only to identify the 2.5% of children in the U.S. with the highest lead levels. CDC stresses that a child lead blood level of 5 should not be considered a “safe” level.
“No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement.” CDC Updated Recommendations
How Many Children Are Lead Poisoned?
As explained above, the definition of lead poisoning continues to change as new research and technology allow us to measure the impacts of lower and lower levels of lead exposure. Many estimates are based on outdated blood lead level thresholds, previously thought to be safe, or count only children between ages 1 and 5 who are in the highest 2.5%, despite CDC’s statement regarding no known safe level. For most regions of the US, data has never been collected for lower blood lead levels, making accurate estimates impossible.
However, some agencies have collected and retained data on lower lead levels, and the number are shocking. University of Michigan research showing the incredible impact of lead poisoning on poor school achievement used data from Detroit Public Schools that provides some ideas of how widespread the problem is. Of 39,199 children tested, only 23 did not have lead in their bodies. University of Michigan Study
The Good News
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