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Low levels of lead poisoning may affect child’s reading level

May 14, 2013

books,boys,childhood,children,educate,education,Fotolia,kids,learn,learning,libraries,males,people,Photographs,readings,reads,schools,studies,studingWhile even minor levels of lead poisoning have been shown to affect a child’s health and IQ. A recently published study linked an effect of lead poisoning to a child’s ability to read. EmaxHealth reports,

This new study is the first time researchers have examined a relationship between exposure to lead and reading readiness in young children. It is not the first time, however, lead exposure has been shown to cause significant healthand behavior problems in youngsters, as is described below.

The new finding, reported by Pat McLaine, DPH, of the University of Maryland, and colleagues notes that even though the “level of concern” for lead in children, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about a quarter of a century ago, is 10 micrograms per deciliter (10 ug/dL), the kindergarteners in their study who had blood lead levels between 5 and 9 ug/dL did not perform well on reading readiness.

Thus it was no surprise that children with lead levels of 10 ug/dL or higher performed even worse on reading readiness tests. The 3,406 children in the study had been tested for lead levels an average of three times before they entered kindergarten.

The study participants were largely low income and consisted of nearly 60 percent Hispanics. Here are some of the findings:

  • Average blood lead levels were 4.2 ug/dL overall
  • 20 percent of the children had at least one reading of 10 ug/dL or higher
  • More than two-thirds of the children had at least one reading of 5 ug/dL or higher
  • Blacks and children whose first language was not English or Spanish had the highest levels of lead
  • Researchers saw a clear relationship between exposure to lead early in life and level of kindergarten reading readiness, even after they made adjustments for language spoken, socioeconomic status, and other factors

The authors concluded that their findings “suggest the need to evaluate current screening approaches for early reading intervention and to determine whether adding a history of elevated [blood lead levels] could improve targeting of children who are at risk of school failure.”

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