Author(s): Ernhart CB, Greene T, Ernhart CB, Greene T
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Abstract Inconsistent results continue to be reported from studies linking low-level lead exposure and child development. This inconsistency is seen for both prenatal exposure and exposure in the preschool years. The primary outcome measures in most reports are indices of cognitive development, including IQ. Verbal skills may be particularly vulnerable to toxic insult. The fact that 2 y of age is both a time of peak exposure and also a time of rapid language development suggests that this may be a critical period for such an effect. The later prenatal and early infancy period, at which time the nervous system is developing rapidly, may also be critical exposure period. We examined the relationship of maternal and cord blood lead (PbB) at birth and venous PbB at 6 mo, 2 y, and 3 y with language measures at 1, 2, and 3 y of age. The sample consisted of disadvantaged urban children. Multivariate analyses revealed no statistically significant relationship of either prenatal PbB or early preschool PbB with language measures after control of cofactors. Supplementary partial correlations revealed a marginal relationship of cord PbB and mean length of utterance (MLU), which describes a child's ability to form meaningful word combinations. Because this analysis was one of a large number of analyses with both positive and negative regression coefficients, the possibility that this was a chance effect was considered. If there is an effect of low-level lead exposure on language development, that effect is not robust.
This article was published in Arch Environ Health
and referenced in Journal of Geography & Natural Disasters