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Children harmed by lead levels

17th September 2009

Young children are being harmed by levels of lead in the environment, according to new research.

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The study from the University of Bristol Centre for Child and Adolescent Health says that exposure to lead in the environment is harming children’s intellectual and emotional development.

As the toxic effects of lead have an effect on the central nervous system, even below the current so-called safe level of lead in the blood, they want the current recommended threshold to be halved.

Sources of lead include: lead-based paint, household dust, water pipes, soil, paint on toys, necklaces and Christmas lights.

The study, published in the journal Archives of Diseases in Childhood, set out to see if there was any effect on the behaviour and intellectual development of children who had ingested just below the so-called safe level of 10 microgrammes per decilitre of blood.

Blood samples were taken from 582 children at the age of 30 months and researchers found 27% of the children had lead levels above five microgrammes per decilitre.

Children’s progress, academic performance and behavioural patterns were assessed when they were seven to eight years old.

Those with lead levels between five and 10 microgrammes per decilitre were associated with significantly poorer scores for reading (49% lower) and writing (51% lower).

Researcher Professor Alan Emond said: "Lead in the body is one of many factors that impacts on education, but this is a reminder that environmental factors are important and paediatricians must test more children with behavioural problems for lead."

 

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