Lead in Topsoil Linked to Cognitive Difficulties in 5 Year Old Boys

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Edson R. Severnini PhDAssistant Professor Of Economics And Public PolicyCarnegie Mellon University

Dr. Severnini

Edson R. Severnini PhD
Assistant Professor Of Economics And Public Policy
Carnegie Mellon University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Although lead has been banned from gasoline, paint, and other substances in the United States and many other countries around the world, the legacy of lead use is a critical environmental and public health issue. Surface soil contamination, in particular, has been long recognized as an important pathway of human lead exposure, and is now a worldwide health concern.

This study estimates the causal effects of exposure to lead in topsoil on cognitive ability among 5-year-old children. We draw on individual level data from the 2000 U.S. Census, and USGS data on lead in topsoil covering a broad set of counties across the United States.

We find that higher lead in topsoil increases considerably the probability of 5-year-old boys experiencing cognitive difficulties such as learning, remembering, concentrating, or making decisions. Living in counties with topsoil lead concentration above the national median roughly doubles the probability of 5-year-old boys having cognitive difficulties. This harmful effect does not seem to extend to 5-year-old girls, potentially due to the natural protection of estrogen.  Continue reading

Current Lead Levels in Flint Michigan Children at Historic Lows

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Hernan F. Gomez MD Department of Emergency Medicine, Hurley Medical Center, Flint, MI Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 

Dr. Gomez

Dr. Hernan F. Gomez MD
Department of Emergency Medicine, Hurley Medical Center
Flint, MI
Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 

MedicalResearch.com: Why did you decide to do this study?

Response: Although the Flint water crisis drew recent, national attention to childhood lead exposure, environmental lead exposure has been a longtime, widespread problem in the United States.

I have recollections of far higher blood lead levels in children during my training as a young pediatrician in an economically challenged city with roughly the same population as Flint. As a medical toxicologist I have not seen any children with lead levels requiring medical treatment in years. The last time a child required inpatient chelation treatment for elevated lead levels in Flint was during the 1980s.

Continue reading