Your child’s brain on lead…

In 2008, Dr. Kim Cecil and colleagues at the University of Cincinnati studied the relationship between lead exposure in childhood and reduced brain volume in adulthood.  Researchers discovered that “exposure to lead as a child was linked with brain volume loss in adulthood, especially in men,” and that there was a “dose response effect” (Science Daily).  Dose-response effect states that “the greatest brain volume loss was seen in participants with the greatest lead exposure in childhood.”  The specific brain regions that are affected by lead exposure are those involved in “organizing actions, decisions and behaviors (know as ‘executive functions’), regulating behavior and coordinating fine movements (known as ‘fine motor control’).”Consider NPR reporter April Fulton’s recent report on Katie Dail, a six year old girl with autism and dangerously high lead levels.  [Listen to Fulton’s story here.] Katie is receiving chelation therapy, which reduces lead levels by introducing to the body chemicals that bind to lead and other heavy metals and brings them out of the bone into the blood, where the body can then flush it out.  Lead poisoning can cause serious behavioral problems in children and lower their IQ levels.

Nurse practitioner Barbara Moore, who works with Katie, stated that it is

“especially hard to keep an eye on the symptoms of kids with learning disabilities” (Fulton).  These children already display atypical behaviors, which may or may not be attributed to their root disability and often seem to be exacerbated by lead exposure.  Conversely, however, exposure to lead may make the symptoms of the core disability only seem more extreme; the more extreme behaviors may be caused by lead exposure.  The symptoms of developmental and learning disabilities in children that have been exposed to lead often become inextricably entwined with the effects of lead poisoning.

The Learning Disabilities Association of America’s Healthy Children project, last discussed here, exists in the interest of educating parents on the dangers of lead exposure and ways in which one can diminish the chance of one’s children encountering and being affected by lead exposure.  Lead exposure can cause and exacerbate learning disabilities.  Protect your child by educating yourself on ways in which you can protect your child’s developing mind from lead exposure.

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