Rachel's Democracy & Health News #917, July 26, 2007
TOXIC LEAD IS STILL ROBBING OUR CHILDREN OF BRAIN POWER
[Rachel's introduction: The government and the media give the impression that the problem of toxic
lead has largely been solved. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Millions of children are still having their
IQs reduced by exposure to lead.]
By Peter Montague
In a front-page story June 22, the New York Times reported that a first-born child typically has a 3-
point IQ advantage over any brothers or sisters born later. The editors of the Times considered this
information so important that they featured it in a second news story, an op-ed commentary, and
four letters to the editor.
As lead in your blood goes up, your IQ goes down. And paradoxically the first few micrograms of lead
are the most damaging.
As a child's lead rises from less than 1 ug/dL up to 10, he or she loses an average of 7 IQ
points.[7,8,9,10] If lead continues rising from 10 to 20, another 2 IQ points get shaved off.
“Lead poisoning: An acute or chronic poisoning caused by the absorption of lead or any of its salts into the body. Lead poisoning is an environmental hazard that is capable of causing mental retardation, behavioral disturbance, and brain damage. Lead poisoning is formally defined in the US as at least 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood.”* -www.medterms.com
*[Note: This is out of date, as the Centers For Disease Control’s official “poisoned”—or more accurately—”action” level in the U.S. is now 1/2 of that amount—or 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter. Many in the scientific community are advocating that that figure should be lowered to 1 microgram per deciliter, based on our current understanding.]
Who is “at risk”?
Lead poisoning does not discriminate.
Children of any age, ethnicity and socioeconomic background can be poisoned.
One in three American children under 18 years old today has had an unsafe level of lead in their blood in their lifetime. This works out to more than 22,000,000 American children.
The naturally occurring level of lead in pre-industrial humans was found to be 0.016 micrograms per deciliter. Today 31% of children have had a BLL (blood lead level) of at least 2.5 micrograms per deciliter or higher at some point in their lifetime. That is more than 150 times the naturally occurring level of lead. As lead is a potent neuro-toxin even at trace amounts and experts now agree that there is no “safe” level of lead in a child’s blood; even this seemingly small amount of lead can cause permanent damage to the children exposed.
Adverse health effects of lead in children have been documented with levels as low as a blood lead level 2.0, and new research (just on the verge of being published) is demonstrating adverse impacts on children when maternal lead during pregnancy is as low as “general adult population” levels are today —0.48 micrograms per deciliter.
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