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Early childhood lead exposure and academic achievement

Publication Abstract

Zhang, Nanhua, Harolyn W. Baker, Margaret Tufts, Randall E. Raymond, Hamisu Salihu, and Michael R. Elliott. 2013. "Early childhood lead exposure and academic achievement." American Journal of Public Health, 103(3): e72-e77.

Objectives. We assessed the long-term effect of early childhood lead exposure on academic achievement in mathematics, science, and reading among elementary and junior high school children. Methods. We linked early childhood blood lead testing surveillance data from the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion to educational testing data from the Detroit, Michigan, public schools. We used the linked data to investigate the effect of early childhood lead exposure on academic achievement among school-aged children, both marginally and adjusted for grade level, gender, race, language, maternal education, and socioeconomic status. Results. High blood lead levels before age 6 years were strongly associated with poor academic achievement in grades 3, 5, and 8. The odds of scoring less than proficient for those whose blood lead levels were greater than 10 micrograms per deciliter were more than twice the odds for those whose blood lead levels were less than 1 micrograms per deciliter after adjustment for potential confounders. Conclusions. Early childhood lead exposure was negatively associated with academic achievement in elementary and junior high school, after adjusting for key potential confounders. The control of lead poisoning should focus on primary prevention of lead exposure in children and development of special education programs for students with lead poisoning.

DOI:10.2105/AJPH.2012.301164 (Full Text)

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