Mount Sinai Researchers Find Lead Poisoning Highly Prevalent Among School-Aged Children in Uganda
Blood lead levels in children living near a landfill in Kampala, Uganda, are nearly 20 times higher than levels found in U.S. children.
Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have found that children living near the Kiteezi landfill in Kampala, Uganda, have blood lead levels nearly 20 times as high as the typical lead level found in U.S. children. The data are published in the current issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.
Led by Leonardo Trasande, MD, Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine and Pediatrics and Co-Director of the Children's Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, researchers evaluated 163 children ages four to eight from nine schools located near the Kiteezi landfill, a site known to contain high levels of lead and other heavy metals. They found that 20.5 percent of the children had elevated blood lead levels (EBLL) greater than 10 micrograms, the level believed to cause developmental and intellectual impairment.
"Exposure to such high levels of lead can seriously hinder brain development,” said Dr. Trasande. “While the developing world has made great strides in reducing exposure by phasing out lead in gasoline and paint, our study shows that it is still pervasive in the environment."
Dr. Trasande’s team took blood samples and questionnaire data from the children and obtained soil samples from their homes and schools, which are all within 1.5 miles of the landfill. Families that owned more household items and dug wells for their water supply had less chance of EBLLs. Families that consumed more canned food were more at risk, possibly because of lead solder used in cans, and at one point increase in socioeconomic status was associated with 0.57 microgram decrease in blood lead. Most importantly, children living within a half mile of the landfill were 3.4 times more likely to have EBLLs.
"The results of our study are disturbing to say the least, and emphasize the importance of effective waste management strategies to curb the prevalence of lead in this population,” said Dr. Trasande. “We hope to study this issue further, especially as it relates to the contamination of the water supply."
In the U.S. and Europe, efforts to reduce lead exposure have been highlight successful, with levels in the U.S. one-tenth of what they were in the 1970s. High levels of lead exposure have been shown to be detrimental to child growth and development.
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The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses both The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Established in 1968, Mount Sinai School of Medicine is one of few medical schools embedded in a hospital in the United States. It has more than 3,400 faculty in 32 departments and 15 institutes, and ranks among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institute of Health funding and by U.S. News & World Report. The school received the 2009 Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Service from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
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The Mount Sinai Health System is an integrated health system committed to providing distinguished care, conducting transformative research, and advancing biomedical education. Structured around seven hospital campuses and a single medical school, the Health System has an extensive ambulatory network and a range of inpatient and outpatient services—from community-based facilities to tertiary and quaternary care.
The System includes approximately 7,100 primary and specialty care physicians; 12 joint-venture ambulatory surgery centers; more than 140 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and 31 affiliated community health centers. Physicians are affiliated with the renowned Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, which is ranked among the highest in the nation in National Institutes of Health funding per investigator. The Mount Sinai Hospital is in the "Honor Roll" of best hospitals in America, ranked No. 15 nationally in the 2016-2017 "Best Hospitals" issue of U.S. News & World Report. The Mount Sinai Hospital is also ranked as one of the nation's top 20 hospitals in Geriatrics, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Nephrology, Neurology/Neurosurgery, and Ear, Nose & Throat, and is in the top 50 in four other specialties. New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked No. 10 nationally for Ophthalmology, while Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Mount Sinai St. Luke's, and Mount Sinai West are ranked regionally. Mount Sinai's Kravis Children's Hospital is ranked in seven out of ten pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report in "Best Children's Hospitals."