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Childhood exposure to leaded petrol linked to lower IQ, according to study

Childhood exposure to leaded petrol linked to lower IQ, according to study

The researchers also found that lead exposure in childhood was associated with lower adult socio-economic status later on, she said.

Research from the University of Otago's internationally recognised study released today showed among more than 500 Dunedin children who grew up in the era of leaded petrol, those exposed to lead had a lower IQ and social standing by the age of 38, relative to peers who had less exposure.

Also, each 5-ยตg/dL increment in blood lead was associated with a 1.79-unit lower score (95% CI -3.17 to -0.40) on the 81-point New Zealand Socioeconomic Index-2006 scale, the authors wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Public health officials have repeatedly said that there is no safe level of lead in a child's blood and that lead exposure can seriously affect the IQ and attention span of children, as well as cause other problems.

"Most all of them were exposed to lead and had high lead levels from lead in the atmosphere from petrol fumes, but those who had the highest levels of lead now end up having IQs that are about four points lower than their peers, or lower than the norm".

The paper's senior author, Professor Terrie Moffitt of US -based Duke University, said the data was from an era when such high lead levels were viewed as normal for children and not risky. He and his colleagues just published the results of a big study on how lead exposure as a child can impact a person's life as an adult.

Senior author Terrie Moffitt said that was clear across all 565 children who had their blood tested as part of the study. "Children will continue to experience the greatest harm from lead exposure, and disadvantaged children will bear a disproportionate share of the burden".

"The reason we did this research is because the issue of lead toxicity has raised its ugly head again in the developing world and also in North America".

Bellinger recommends several steps be taken to reduce the consequences from lead exposure, including the continued phasing out of nonessential uses of lead, broad screening to identify kids with high levels of lead exposure and screening environments for potential exposure risks.

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As of the start of this year, the long-term adult cognitive outcomes of children exposed to lead were unknown, due to a lack of research.

And when lead gets into a human body, it can mess with brain development, decades of research has shown.

"Problems such as those in Flint are nearly certain to occur periodically" until steps are taken, writes David Bellinger, a researcher at Boston Children's Hospital, in an editorial published alongside the new study.

The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit is supported by the New Zealand Health Research Council and the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment.

"This is historical data from an era when lead levels like these were viewed as normal in children and not unsafe, so most of our study participants were never given any special treatment".

"In essence, there was equality in lead exposure", Caspi said.

BICHELL: In the USA, it's been years since policies went into place limiting or eliminating lead in paint, plumbing and gasoline. "In most places, we know lead burden tends to be borne a lot more by lower income communities".

BICHELL: And he says this study shows exposure to lead may be one more thing holding them back for decades to come.

Leaded petrol was banned in this country in 1996, but a public health researcher at Otago University in Wellington, Nick Wilson, said New Zealanders must remain extremely wary of the neurotoxin.

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