Children Living Near Toxic Waste Sites in Developing Countries May Experience Higher Blood Lead Levels Resulting in Lower IQ
Mount Sinai researcher estimates that lead exposure could cause mental retardation in 6 in 1,000 children living near the sites.
Children living near toxic waste sites in lower and middle income countries such as India, Philippines and Indonesia may experience higher blood lead levels, resulting in a loss of IQ points and a higher incidence of mental retardation, according to a study presented today by Kevin Chatham-Stephens, MD, Pediatric Environmental Health Fellow at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting on May 6 in Washington, DC.
The study titled, "The Pediatric Burden of Disease from Lead Exposure at Toxic Waste Sites in Low and Middle Income Countries in 2010," was a joint research partnership between Mount Sinai and the Blacksmith Institute.
Researchers measured lead levels in soil and drinking water at 200 toxic waste sites in 31 countries then estimated the blood lead levels in 779,989 children who were potentially exposed to lead from these sites in 2010. The blood lead levels ranged from 1.5 to 104 µg/dL, with an average of 21 µg/dL in children ages four years and younger. According to Dr. Chatham-Stephens, first author of the study, these higher blood lead levels could result in an estimated loss of five to eight IQ points per child and an incidence of mild mental retardation in 6 out of every 1,000 children.
"The average blood lead level in an American child is approximately 1.3 µg/dL," said Dr. Chatham-Stephens. "Our research found an average predicted blood lead level of 21 µg/dL, which is very high. Lead has serious, long-term health consequences such as the potential to impair cognitive development in children and cause mental retardation." The condition of mental retardation is defined as having an IQ below 70.
"On a global level, this analysis highlights the importance of assigning more public health resources to identify, evaluate and remediate lead-contaminated toxic waste sites in these countries," said Philip Landrigan, MD, MSc, Dean for Global Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, one of the authors of the study. "In order to prevent further detrimental effects on neurodevelopment in children, these countries should create programs to identify toxic wastes and reduce lead exposure."
"This study is important because, to our knowledge, the burden of disease from these toxic waste sites has never been calculated before," said Dr. Chatham-Stephens. "We are showing that children who were chronically exposed to toxic waste sites in lower and middle income countries could have had high lead blood levels."
About the Department of Preventive Medicine
Mount Sinai's Department of Preventive Medicine is internationally renowned for excellence in preventive medicine, occupational and environmental medicine, community health, and environmental pediatrics. The department is among the largest medical school departments of preventive medicine in the United States. Its mission is to prevent disease, protect the environment, and promote health in all the communities Mount Sinai serves. It consists of 57 full-time faculty, 137 adjunct and voluntary faculty, and 265 staff.
The department's academic programs train medical students for residency programs in general preventive medicine and in occupational and environmental medicine. It also offers a fellowship program in environmental pediatrics and the medical school's master's in public health (MPH) program.
For more information, visit http://icahn.mssm.edu/research/programs/mount-sinai-global-health.
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The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses both The Mount Sinai Hospital and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Established in 1968, the Icahn School of Medicine is one of the leading medical schools in the United States. The Medical School is noted for innovation in education, biomedical research, clinical care delivery, and local and global community service. It has more than 3,400 faculty in 32 departments and 14 research institutes, and ranks among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding and by U.S. News & World Report.
The Mount Sinai Hospital, founded in 1852, is a 1,171-bed tertiary- and quaternary-care teaching facility and one of the nation's oldest, largest and most-respected voluntary hospitals. In 2011, U.S. News & World Report ranked The Mount Sinai Hospital 16th on its elite Honor Roll of the nation's top hospitals based on reputation, safety, and other patient-care factors. Of the top 20 hospitals in the United States, Mount Sinai is one of 12 integrated academic medical centers whose medical school ranks among the top 20 in NIH funding and U.S. News & World Report and whose hospital is on the U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll. Nearly 60,000 people were treated at Mount Sinai as inpatients last year, and approximately 560,000 outpatient visits took place.
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