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Even Lower Blood Lead in Children Can Impair Function

Last Updated: September 21, 2009.

Lead levels in the blood of young children are associated with hindered educational attainment at concentrations half that previously considered as a cause for concern, according to a study published online Sept. 21 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

MONDAY, Sept. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Lead levels in the blood of young children are associated with hindered educational attainment at concentrations half that previously considered as a cause for concern, according to a study published online Sept. 21 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Latha Chandramouli, of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and colleagues analyzed blood sample data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children that were taken at 30 months of age. Lead levels in the group were correlated with developmental, behavioral and educational status determined by standardized tests at age 7 to 8 years.

The researchers found that blood lead levels exhibited a significant association with reading, writing and spelling scores on the standard assessment tests with a doubling of lead concentration associated with a 0.3 point drop in test scores. Blood lead levels below 5 µg/dl were not associated with assessment scores, but levels of 5 to 10 µg/dl were associated with a reduction in scores for reading and writing. Lead levels greater than 10 µg/dl were also associated with increased hyperactivity and antisocial behavior. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1991 had set 10 µg/dl as the blood lead threshold for clinical concern.

"Exposure to lead early in childhood has effects on subsequent educational attainment, even at blood levels below 10 µg/dl. These data suggest that the threshold for clinical concern should be reduced to 5 µg/dl," the authors write.

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