Effects of Lead Poisoning on Learning, Behavior and Health over the Life Course

Monday, April 28, 2014

Of course I prefer talking and writing about the most positive influences on the healthy brains of children. However, there is a an important influence that can have a very detrimental  affect on a developing brain that I have neglected
to write about previously. 
Lead poisoning is an area of awareness I worked on quite a bit as did my daughter several years ago. With appreciation to Reghan Walsh, I am very passionate about sharing the article below. Hopefully you will be motivated to use it in an effort to create greater understanding and touch the hearts and minds of others toward preventing more innocent children being affected. 

In addition, Rehgan shared the following exciting news with members on the Worldwide Brain Team forum:

"Another passionate lead poisoning prevention advocate is Tamara Rubin. She is making a full-length documentary about how lead poisoning has such a damaging effect on young children and the struggles of families with children who have been lead poisoned."

Please click above to see the movie trailer.  It is worth checking out!

Effects of Lead Poisoning on Learning, Behavior and Health Over the Life Course
Childhood lead poisoning is the number one environmental disease in the United States. The detrimental effects of lead exposure in children have been known for over 100 years. Early research identified high levels of lead as particularly detrimental to children's intellectual and behavioral development. However, new studies have discovered that lower levels of lead, levels once thought to be safe, also cause considerable damage to children's developmental outcomes.

Young Children with Lead Poisoning Lead interferes with the normal development of a young child's brain resulting in lowered IQ, learning disabilities and developmental delays.
  • The discovery of the biological mechanism of lead exposure explains why lead is so destructive. Lead affects the internal working of the neurons, the communication between neurons and the overall structure of the brain.
  • Lead poisoning in young children can result in impaired infant brain development, lowered IQ, hearing loss and developmental delays such as speech impairment.
  • Lead poisoning affects learning ability as a child ages and is a powerful predictor of school disciplinary problems. Lead poisoning is associated with a greater likelihood of behavior problems like aggression and hyperactivity.
  • Children who were lead poisoned were three times more likely to fail fourth grade reading and math tests and more likely to be suspended when compared to children with minimal lead exposure.

Teenagers Who Were Lead Poisoned as Young Children Teens who were lead poisoned as children are more likely to have learning, behavioral, physical and mental health problems resulting in significant negative outcomes.

  • Studies show that lead exposure causes depression and panic attacks in adolescents.
  • Lead exposure in young children is associated with higher rates of teen pregnancy, high school dropout and juvenile delinquency, especially violent crime.
  • Teenagers who were lead poisoned as children are 5 times more likely to use tobacco in their teenage years. Research posits that early lead exposure may increase sensitivity to tobacco addiction and contribute to continued tobacco use.
  • Lead interferes in the normal development of the brain, resulting in a reduction in volume in the frontal lobe. This is the region of the brain that reasons, judges, solves problems, and controls impulses and emotional responses.
  • Teens who were lead poisoned as a child are more likely to have problems with their upright balance that may result in falls or discourage their participation in sports activities. Lead affects the central nervous system affecting children's long-term injury risk by harming their balance, coordination and other neuromuscular skills.
  • Children who were lead poisoned are more likely to develop kidney disease as adolescents.

Adults Who Were Lead Poisoned as Young Children Lead poisoning continues to predict negative behavioral, physical and mental health outcomes for adults who were poisoned as children.

  • Violent crimes committed by young adults are strongly associated with prenatal and childhood lead poisoning. For each increase of 5 micrograms per deciliter of lead in blood as a child, an individual's risk of being arrested for committing a violent crime as an adult increases by 50%.
  • Childhood lead poisoning increases the risk of early death from stroke and heart attack as adults. Childhood lead exposure is also linked to adult kidney disease, cognitive deficits such as memory loss and Alzheimer's disease.
  • Childhood lead exposure has strong associations with depression, panic attacks and general pessimism about life as adults.
  • Childhood lead poisoning can cause reproductive problems in both men and women. Men who were lead poisoned can suffer from sexual dysfunction and testicular cancer. Adverse birth outcomes such as increased risk of spontaneous abortion, preterm delivery and infant low birth weight are related to childhood lead exposure. Women are more likely to develop hypertension when pregnant.  
Excerpted from “Response to 2009 Wisconsin Senate Joint Resolution,” prepared by the Wisconsin Childhood Lead Poisoning Elimination Implementation and Oversight Committee, submitted to the Legislature, December 2010. Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health, Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health, Wisconsin Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.


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