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Get the Lead Out
E&E News, October 14, 2011

Low-level exposure causes significant health effects -- U.S. report
By Jeremy P. Jacobs

Exposure to even low levels of lead can cause significant adverse health effects in both children and adults, a federal report said today.

The draft report from the National Toxicology Program (NTP) says there is sufficient evidence to conclude that low levels of lead in blood is associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), decreased cognitive performance, lower academic performance and other "problem behaviors" in children.

At slightly higher exposure levels, there is enough evidence to connect the lead exposure to delayed puberty, decreased hearing and lowered IQ.

NTP, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, released the draft report in advance of a peer review panel meeting in November.

In adults, NTP concluded that low-level lead exposure can contribute to renal problems, as well as increased blood pressure, hypertension and "increased cardiovascular-related mortality." The panel also said that lead exposure may be associated with reduced fetal growth in pregnant women.

However, NTP also said that there is only limited evidence to link low-level lead exposure to preterm births or "spontaneous abortion."

Children's exposure to lead remains a focus of several environmental watchdogs. The substance was banned from use in residences in 1978, but it remains in millions of homes built before then.

In particular, public health advocates have pushed for stronger regulations on lead in children's products. There has been a 300 parts per million (ppm) threshold for lead in children's products, which is enforced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In August, that standard dropped to 100 ppm.

Environmentalists have also criticized U.S. EPA from backing away from a proposal that would have required contractors to test dust for lead following renovations (Greenwire, July 18).

Click here to read the NTP draft review.

© 1996-2011 E&E Publishing, LLC

This article originally appeared here.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton