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Lead

Lead

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Sources of Lead

Lead poisoning is caused by exposure to high levels of lead, most commonly from paint in older homes and older water lines. Symptoms of lead poisoning include diminished IQ, heart disease and hyperactivity. Treatment includes finding and removing the source of the lead to prevent further exposure.

Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health and cause well-documented adverse effects such as:

  • Damage to the brain and nervous system
  • Slowed growth and development
  • Learning and behavior problems
  • Hearing and speech problems

This can cause:

  • Lower IQ
  • Decreased ability to pay attention
  • Underperformance in school

Children with higher exposures to lead never reach the same peak ability as children with lower exposure. 

                 

                 — Dr. Bruce Lanphear

    Professor of Health Sciences

              Simon Fraser University

The impact of Lead on children

Childhood exposure to lead can cause long-term harm.

Lead exposure in children is often difficult to see. Most children have no obvious immediate symptoms. If  there’s suspicion that a child may have been exposed to lead, parents should talk to their child’s healthcare provider about getting a blood lead test. Healthcare providers and most local health departments can test for lead in the blood. Many private insurance policies cover the cost of testing for lead in the blood. The cost of blood lead testing for children enrolled in Medicaid is covered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services.

The health effects of exposure are more harmful to children less than six years of age because their bodies are still developing and growing rapidly. Young children also tend to put their hands or other objects, which may be contaminated with lead dust, into their mouths, so they are more likely to be exposed to lead than older children.

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The impact of Lead on children

Childhood exposure to lead can cause long-term harm.

Lead exposure in children is often difficult to see. Most children have no obvious immediate symptoms. If  there’s suspicion that a child may have been exposed to lead, parents should talk to their child’s healthcare provider about getting a blood lead test. Healthcare providers and most local health departments can test for lead in the blood. Many private insurance policies cover the cost of testing for lead in the blood. The cost of blood lead testing for children enrolled in Medicaid is covered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services.

The health effects of exposure are more harmful to children less than six years of age because their bodies are still developing and growing rapidly. Young children also tend to put their hands or other objects, which may be contaminated with lead dust, into their mouths, so they are more likely to be exposed to lead than older children.

Ways to reduce and avoid Lead exposure

Simple measures can help protect you and your family from lead poisoning:
  1. Wash hands and toys. …
  2. Clean dusty surfaces. …
  3. Remove shoes before entering the house. …
  4. Run cold water. …
  5. Prevent children from playing on soil. …
  6. Eat a healthy diet. …
  7. Keep your home well maintained.
Cleaning-floors

The lingering legacy of Lead

Lead has been banned in some products and that helped reduce the worst cases of lead poisoning in the country. But legacy lead remains in paint and dust in pre-1978 homes and in soil from coast to coast. And lead is still permitted in many products, such as aviation gasoline and paint not intended for residential use. What we see now is that lead exposure causes over 400,000 deaths and the collective loss of 23 million IQ points in American children younger than six. Lead is found in the blood of all U.S. children, but Black children have the highest body burden. , have been linked with impaired brain development, preterm birth, and infertility.

Recent Studies on Lead Exposure

Toxic chemicals do not always impact children equally. Effects can differ based on sex, race, and socioeconomic status, leaving some children at a heightened risk.

Researchers from ISCHE and the ABCD Study found reduced cognition and brain volume of children living in neighborhoods with high lead exposure, especially poor children. Small reductions in lead exposure might provide greater benefit to children experiencing more environmental adversity.

Author: Andrew T. Marshall, Jun 2020

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During early childhood, ISCHE researchers found that blood #lead concentrations below the CDC lead reference value were related to more #ADHD-related behavioral problems. Dr. Sears, lead author of the study, shared that “we need to identify additional strategies to reduce lead exposure from less-recognized sources across childhood, such as food and air”. Brown University School of Public Health

☑️ If you live in a house built before 1960, have it tested for lead hazards

☑️ Ask for a lead inspection before you purchase or rent a house

☑️ Wet mop floors and clean surfaces frequently

☑️ Remove shoes when you enter your house

☑️ Have your child tested for lead

Author: Clara S. Sears, Nov 2021

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In New Orleans, lead measured in topsoil and children’s blood levels have both improved since 1998. Yet many inner-city communities remain contaminated in areas where kids live and play. Latest large study by ISCHE member Howard Mielke and team.

Author: Howard S. Mielke , Feb 2021

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A new study shows that aluminum cookware made from recycled materials in Ghana leach #lead and other #toxic metals into food, posing a health hazard.  Researchers from Occupational Knowledge International and @ashland_university found that lead levels leached from aluminum cookware had up to 36 times the U.S. allowable daily intake of lead. “Greater awareness of this hazard is needed in African and Asian countries where recycled aluminum cookware is commonly used.” says Perry Gottesfeld, Executive Director of Occupational Knowledge International.Author: Jeffrey D. Weidenhamer, Mar 2022

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Henna, made from the dried, pulverized leaves of the Lawsonia plant, is used as body art. Is it safe? Researchers from the Department of Pharmaceutical Toxicology at Mersin University in Turkey analyzed 25 different henna products and found the contamination of lead and other metals with lead found in two-thirds of the samples. Some samples had no henna at all! Neurotoxic effects are among the most well-known outcomes of lead exposure in children. Low levels of lead exposure are linked to IQ deficiencies, cognitive and behavioural issues, and impaired motor abilities. There is no safe level of lead. The good news is that countries are trying to reduce exposure to lead!  Here is how:

  • – In Pakistan, researchers are hoping to start creating temporary henna tattoos as well as find ways to test the purity of henna 
  • – In India, researchers found a way to detect lead contamination using filter paper that will turn a different colour if the lead is found 
  • – In Brazil, researchers are working on methods to detect small traces of lead in cosmetic products

Author: Jori Lewis, Jun 2022

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As #autism awareness month comes to a close, we are sharing this new video on the impact toxic chemicals on children’s behaviours. Children are not equally impacted by toxic chemicals. To protect the few, we have to protect everyone. In the study described in this video, researchers from SFU found increased expressions of autistic-like behaviors in pre-school aged children exposed more heavily to chemicals in the prenatal period. Lead Author, Josh Alampi, notes “that not only did we find associations between certain #chemicals and autistic-like behaviours, for some chemicals, like #phthalates and #lead, the associations were particularly strong among children with more autistic behaviors.”

Author: Maryam Daneshparvar, Apr 2021

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Landmark review study confirming childhood lead poisoning crisis published in Lancet Planetary Health. https://bit.ly/3BICZJt. Researchers systematically assessed the extent, magnitude and sources of blood lead levels over the full range of low-income and middle-income countries and found a clear picture of elevated #lead exposure.Environmental health scientist Dr. Mark Taylor, a co-author and professor in the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Macquarie University, shared how “despite the success of the global phase-out of leaded petrol, we found that lead exposure remains substantial and is even increasing in some low-income and middle-income countries. While high income countries are not immune from the problem of lead exposure, this preventable exposure remains most acute in low-income and middle-income countries, where there are already major other socio-economic disadvantages at play.”“Perhaps most importantly”, continues Dr. Mark Taylor, “it draws our attention to the clear and urgent need to address this inequity. Greater effort is required to better manage industrial emissions, the recycling of lead, and its unnecessary use particularly in food products and cookware. Ultimately, the goal of this research and future efforts is to ensure that a significant proportion of the world’s next generation are no longer subject to an entirely preventable burden of disease.”

Author: Mark Taylor, Mar 2022

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A new study, published today, showed that lead exposure had resulted in 827 million lost IQ points in Americans from 1940 to 2015.“Study lead author Michael McFarland, an associate professor of sociology at Florida State University, said the findings were “infuriating” because it was long known that lead exposure was harmful, based on anecdotal evidence of lead’s health impacts throughout history.”LTM’s Dr. Lanphear shared with AP News that “The more tragic part is that we keep making the same … mistakes again… First it was lead, then it was air pollution. … Now it’s PFAS chemicals and phthalates (chemicals used to make plastics more durable). And it keeps going on and on…. And we can’t stop long enough to ask ourselves should we be regulating chemicals differently”

Author: Michael McFarland, Mar 2022

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For almost 25 years, the ELEMENT cohort study (Early Life Exposure in Mexico to ENvironmental Toxicants) has followed mother-child pairs in Mexico City and tracked their exposure to toxic chemicals. Since its launch in 1994, it has become an important resource on the effects of early life exposures and health and development outcomes. Check out ELEMENT’s latest summary of findings in its cohort profile paper @BMJ_Open

Author: Wei Perng, Nov 2019

Read the Study

Other facts You might Find Interesting...

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PBDEs  are toxic chemicals found in common household products and can have significant impact fetal brain development. 

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Microplastics  result from plastic breaking down into fine particles often containing hazardous toxins. They exist throughout the environment.

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Air pollution  is a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. We can’t escape it, it’s all around us. 

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PFAS chemicals are known as “forever chemicals” because they never completely break down, leaving them in our soils, our water and our bodies.

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Pesticides can cause short-term adverse health effects as well as chronic adverse effects that can occur months or years after exposure.

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Allergic disorders have risen dramatically over the last 30-40 years as has our understanding of what causes them and the toxic chemicals that have the greatest impact.

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Endocrine disrupting chemicals are found in many common household products and can increase the risk of many diseases.

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Allergic disorders have risen dramatically over the last 30-40 years as has our understanding of what causes them and the toxic chemicals that have the greatest impact.

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Over a billion children live at extremely high risk for climate change events that can lead to disease and death.

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