Vol. 4, No. 4, 1998 Page 2&7

Low-level lead in utero affects development

New research from China suggests that the deleterious effects of low-level prenatal lead exposure on mental development can be detected even in the first months of life.

X. M. Shen and colleagues measured levels of lead in the umbilical cord blood of newborns at a Shanghai hospital. They then compared two groups: 64 babies with lead levels in the 30th percentile or below, and 69 babies with lead levels in the 70th percentile or above. The researchers administered developmental tests to both groups when the babies were three, six, and twelve months of age.

"At all three ages," Shen et al. say, "the Mental Development Index scores, adjusted for confounders, were inversely related to the infants' cord blood lead levels." They add that "these differences were statistically significant at all time points."

The researchers conclude that "prenatal low-level lead exposure. is associated with an adverse developmental impact on children through the first year of life."


"Low-level prenatal lead exposure and neurobehavioral development of children in the first year of life: a prospective study in Shanghai," X. M. Shen, C. H. Yan, D. Guo, S. M. Wu, R. Q. Li, H. Huang, L. M. Ao, J. D. Zhou, Z. Y. Hong, J. D. Xu, X. M. Jin, and J. M. Tang, Environmental Research, Vol. 79, No. 1, October 1998, pp. 1-8. Address: X. M. Shen, Research Center for Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention, Shanghai Second Medical University, China, xmshen@online.sh.cn.

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