Parents have long been cautioned to pay close attention to their children's blood lead levels before the age of 6, because that's when children are most vulnerable to the damage from lead poisoning. New research suggests the risk of permanent brain damage, learning and behavioral problems may be most acute at the later end of that range, not at age 2, as current public health guidelines seem to suggest.
Risk from lead exposure doesn't stop as kids grow older, according to a new study by researchers at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, published in Environmental Health Perspectives and detailed by Science News.
In fact, IQ is most vulnerable to degradation when school-age children -- age 5 and 6 -- are exposed to lead, according to the study. Not only that, but exposure to lead later in childhood is more strongly associated with violent and criminal behavior than exposure to lead as a young child.
The study focused on 462 children in Cincinnati and Rochester, N.Y. It builds on research that has expanded our understanding about how insidious lead exposure can be. Recently, several studies have shown that lead poisoning is a threat to adult brains, as well as children's brains.
In a bid to stave off the effects of lead poisoning on society -- and put some contractors to work in the economic recovery -- Vice President Joe Biden on Friday announced nearly $100 million for lead abatement in low-income homes.
The first step toward remedying a child's lead poisoning is to know if there's a problem. That means testing, and this study indicates that blood testing for lead should continue regularly at least through the age of 6.
The next most important step is to fortify your child against the effects of lead by feeding him or her a nutritious diet, rich in calcium and iron. Calcium and iron (along with vitamin C to help absorb the iron) help the body process lead without absorbing it, minimizing the risk from exposure. The Daily Green's Lead Poisoning Prevention Diet compiles those ingredients most rich in those three key nutrients, and couples each with delicious recipes.
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