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Lead (Pb) Exposure In Childhood May Have Lingering Impact On IQ, Socioeconomic Status As Adults [VIDEO]

Update Date: Mar 29, 2017 08:12 AM EDT

A long-term study conducted in New Zealand demonstrated how high exposure to lead (Pb) in childhood could lead to lower cognitive ability and socioeconomic status as an adult.

Aaron Reuben, a clinical psychology Ph.D. student at Duke University and his colleagues published the research which followed 560 people born in the 1970s in Dunedin, New Zealand. The findings showed that as the concentration of lead (Pb) in the blood increased at a young age, the intellectual abilities in adulthood declined. This could have an effect on the type of jobs and the level of income of people who had exposure to lead (Pb) in childhood.

As children, the participants were tested on their working memory, ability to recognize patterns, verbal comprehension and problem-solving skills to arrive at their IQ scores. At the age of 11, their blood was tested for the presence of lead (Pb) and their cognitive abilities were tested again when they were 38 years old. The researchers found that their IQ scores were 1.6 points lower at that age when the lead concentration in their blood increased by 5 micrograms in childhood.

The figures might not be big but it could alter important aspects of people's lives, the researchers added. In fact, high lead exposure was associated with a lower income level and careers which did not depend on a higher degree of education than those their parents had.

On the contrary, there was no change in the cognitive abilities of adults who did not have a high concentration of lead in their blood as children, according to the NPR.

Lead (Pb) coming from contaminated soil, peeling paint or water that has passed through lead pipes could enter the body and affect a child's brain as it develops. Lead (Pb) poisoning before birth could manifest itself in premature birth, lower birth weight and sluggish growth. Developmental delay, learning disabilities, fatigue, weight loss, moodiness and loss of appetite are some of the symptoms in children, according to Mayo Clinic.

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