Until I had a baby, I had never thought about lead. Then we moved into an old house in Buffalo, my husband got a lead testing kit, and the paint surrounding our windows tested positive for lead. I have to admit somehow in the back of my head I was worried that any trace of lead exposure would prevent him from reaching developmental milestones. But I dismissed my anxiety as paranoid mommy worries. And he’s fine.
Turns out though I was right to be worried.
I just read a fascinating article by Mother Jones reporter Kevin Drum about how lead exposure could be a factor in rates of criminality, attention disorders, and low intelligence scores. Lead exposure can affect children through impairing the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which control executive functions such as emotional and impulse control, attention, and reasoning. It also might impede the brain’s ability to communicate between its different parts.
According to one of the researchers who contributed to one of the lead studies, at-risk kids — who are already facing many risk factors, such as poverty — are given “another kick in the gut” in their already difficult lives because of lead exposure.
I know that pediatricians test lead levels in babies. Do they continue to test kids as they get older and maybe move places with varying lead levels?
I tend to think about sociological and psychological explanations for social problems. What if we could make a huge dent in really big issues — crimes rates, poor school performance, aggression — by removing lead?