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Age of Greatest Susceptibility to Childhood Lead Exposure: A New Statistical Approach *


Susceptibility to lead toxicity is often assumed to be greatest during early childhood (e.g., 2 years of age), but recent studies suggest that blood lead concentrations (BPb) taken at 5–7 years of age are more strongly associated with IQ.

We aimed to determine the age of greatest susceptibility to lead exposure using an innovative statistical approach that avoids the problem of correlated serial BPb measurements.

We analyzed two cohorts of children that were followed from infancy to 6 years of age in Rochester, New York (n = 211), and Cincinnati, Ohio (n = 251). Serial BPb levels were measured and IQ tests were done when children were 6 years of age. After adjustment for relevant covariates, the ratio of 6-year BPb to 2-year BPb was added to the multiple regression model to test whether the pattern of BPb profiles during childhood had additional effect on IQ.

The ratio of BPb at 6 years to the BPb at 2 years showed a strong effect on IQ (p < .001) when added to the multiple regression model that included the average childhood BPb. IQ decreased by 7.0 points for children whose BPb at 6 years of age was 50% greater than that at 2 years compared with children whose 6-year BPb was 50% less than their 2-year BPb. Similarly, criminal arrest rates were a factor of 3.35 higher for those subjects whose 6-year BPb was 50% higher than their 2-year BPb.

We conclude that 6-year BPb is more strongly associated with cognitive and behavioral development than is BPb measured in early childhood.

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As with any procedure, there could be pain or other substantial risks involved. These concerns should be discussed with your health care provider prior to any treatment so that you have proper informed consent and understand that there are no guarantees to healing.

THE INFORMATION IN THIS WEBSITE IS OFFERED FOR GENERAL EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT IMPLY OR GIVE MEDICAL ADVICE. No Doctor/Patient relationship shall be deemed to have arisen simply by reading the information contained on these pages, and you should consult with your personal physician/care giver regarding your medical treatment before undergoing any sort of treatment or therapy.

Published on 08-31-2010
Authors: Richard W. Hornung, Bruce P. Lanphear, and Kim N. Dietrich
Source: Environ Health Perspect. 2009 August; 117(8): 1309-1312