THE LEGACY OF LEAD
The e-journal, ScienceNews, published an interesting article this week concerning the affects of lead on children who grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. The article is alarming!
Mothers of the studies’ participants were recruited from 1979 to 1984 from neighborhoods in Cincinnati with a lot of old, lead-contaminated houses and historically high rates of childhood lead poisoning. Blood lead levels were measured in the pregnant moms and then, after they were born, in the children at several intervals until they were at least 6 years old. Of the children, now 19 to 24 years old, 250 participated in the study examining the association with criminal behavior and 157 participated in the brain imaging study.
MRI scans of the young adults’ brains revealed that the more lead they were exposed to as children, the smaller their adult brains were, the researchers report. The anterior cingulate cortex — a brain region associated with mood regulation, decision making and impulse control — was particularly affected.
Childhood lead exposure has been linked to lower IQ scores and attention and hyperactivity problems, but the brain-imaging work is the first to look beyond performance to how lead affects the structure and size of children’s brains.