Early-Life Exposure to Airborne Lead Linked to Lower Cognitive Function

Interquartile range increase in airborne lead linked to 0.74-point lower mean IQ scores among children
Early-Life Exposure to Airborne Lead Linked to Lower Cognitive Function
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Medically Reviewed By:
Mark Arredondo, M.D.

THURSDAY, Feb. 29, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Early-life exposure to airborne lead is associated with lower cognitive functioning among children younger than 8 years, according to a study published online in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Lisa M. Gatzke-Kopp, Ph.D., from Pennsylvania State University in University Park, and colleagues spatially joined the residential addresses of children (younger than 5 years) to the Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators model of relative airborne lead toxicity. Cognitive outcomes were available for 1,629 children younger than 8 years with IQ data and 1,476 with measures of executive function (EF).

The researchers found an association for an interquartile range increase in airborne lead with a 0.74-point lower mean IQ score. A nonlinear association was seen between lead and EF, which was modeled with a knot at the 97.5th percentile of lead in this sample. A significant association was seen for lead with lower mean inhibitory control but not with cognitive flexibility. For both IQ and inhibitory control, this effect was stronger for boys.

"Airborne lead exposure likely contributes to disparities in children's cognitive development. In addition to direct efforts to reduce environmental pollution, attention to factors that may mitigate the impact of exposure on cognitive development, such as nutrition, could reduce health disparities of lead exposure for vulnerable individuals," the authors write.

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