Date: October - December, 2006, California Agriculture journal
Lead poisoning still a risk to U.S. children
Lead levels in air and food have been drastically reduced since the 1970s, but some U.S. children still face an elevated risk of exposure to lead from old paint, dust, soil, imported pottery and ceramic ware, ethnic remedies, and some imported foods and other consumer goods, according to a peer-reviewed study published in the October-December 2006 issue of the University of California’s California Agriculture journal. The full article is posted online at http://californiaagriculture.ucop.edu.
“Even very low levels of lead exposure are of concern in young children,” says lead author Karrie Heneman, postdoctoral researcher in the UC Davis Department of Nutrition. “Their nervous systems are still rapidly developing. Elevated lead levels put young children at higher risk of neurobehavioral and cognitive problems, including IQ deficiencies, behavioral issues and hearing impairment.”
Heneman and co-author Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr, Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Nutrition, reviewed the most current data on lead concentrations in the environment (air, water, paint and soil); food (candy, chocolate and calcium supplements); and other sources (imported cookware and ethnic remedies).
Two major sources of lead exposure in the United States — paint and gasoline — have been reduced. But lead still lingers in older housing, soil and various consumer products. For example, very large amounts of lead have been found in some medicinal remedies used in ethnic communities; one study of 70 ayurvedic products (based on traditional medicine in India) in the Boston area found that 20% contained lead, often at very high levels. In recent years, health organizations have discovered lead in children’s lunchboxes and jewelry.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 430,000 children between 1 and 5 years old in the United States have blood-lead levels at or above 10 micrograms per deciliter. Studies have shown that IQ levels can be adversely affected even below 10 micrograms per deciliter — by as much as 7.4 points, “suggesting that any exposure to lead can put a child at risk,” the authors wrote.