Even Low Lead Levels Affect Child Behaviors

Rob Wipond
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A team of American and Chinese researchers funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences report in JAMA Pediatrics that lead concentrations in children’s blood were associated with behavioral problems, even at levels much lower than previously studied. The researchers measured lead levels in 1,341 preschoolers in China aged 3 to 5 years, and then had teachers report on their behaviors when the children were 6 years old. “Blood lead concentrations, even at a mean concentration of 6.4 µg/dL, were associated with increased risk of behavioral problems in Chinese preschool children, including internalizing and pervasive developmental problems.”

“The association between lead exposure and children’s IQ has been well studied, but few studies have examined the effects of blood lead concentrations on children’s behavior,” noted the researchers.

“This research focused on lower blood lead levels than most other studies and adds more evidence that there is no safe lead level,” NIEHS Health Scientist Administrator Kimberly Gray said in a press release.

Lead in Kids’ Blood Linked With Behavioral and Emotional Problems (Press Release, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, June 30, 2014)

Blood Lead Concentrations and Children’s Behavioral and Emotional Problems (Liu, Jianghong et al. JAMA Pediatrics. Published online June 30, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.332)

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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a freelance journalist who writes frequently on the interfaces between psychiatry, civil rights, the justice system, and social change. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, nine Western Magazine Awards, and five Webster Awards for journalism. He is currently working on a book about people's experiences of forced psychiatric treatment, and can be contacted through his website.

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