Lead Poisoning Brain Damage Risk May Be More Likely in Boys Than Girls: Study

Donald Saiontz

By Donald Saiontz
Posted February 9, 2015


The findings of a recent study suggest that young boys may face a greater risk of suffering from lead poisoning than girls, indicating that female hormones may work as a protective measure against the potential for brain damaging effects from lead-based paint and other lead exposure. 

Researchers from Creighton University published a study in the latest edition of the Journal of Environmental Health, suggesting that girls may be more resistant to the effects of lead exposure than boys. This could account for why boys appear more likely to suffer lead poisoning brain damage.

As Dr. Maya Khanna, the study’s lead author, described in a press release issued last month:

“The study supports existing research suggesting that estrogen and estradiol in females may act as neuroprotectants against the negative impacts of neurotoxins.The findings also add to the evidence that lead exposure has a negative impact on cognitive functioning, especially those functions housed within frontal areas of the brain. Executive functions are controlled largely by the prefrontal cortex, while reading skills rely more heavily on the temporal or parietal areas of the cerebral cortex.”

Khanna tested executive function and reading skills in 40 children between the ages of three and six. All of the children lived within what is known as the Omaha Lead Superfund Site; the largest residential lead clean-up area in the U.S. A lead refinery operated in the area for 125 years, leaving high levels of lead contamination in surface soil. The area also has numerous homes that still contain lead-based paint.

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The study found that 23 of the children had high levels of lead in their blood. Boys with high levels tested worse on executive function, memory and attention than girls with the same lead levels in their blood.

The lead poisoning appeared to also more significantly affect executive function overall, while having less of an effect on reading readiness.

One of the most common causes of lead poisoning in the United States is lead based paint, which was banned in this country in 1978 due to the risk of severe and permanent brain damage it posed, especially among children.

However, lead paint is still found in many old homes and in public housing in many urban areas. Approximately half a million children have blood lead levels between 1 and 5 mcg/dl, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers unsafe.

Exposure to lead paint as been linked to severe developmental problems in children, including a lower IQ score and other brain damage. Potential side effects of lead poisoning can also include injury to the nervous system, seizures, growth or mental retardation, coma and death.

The lead poisoning lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. represent children throughout Baltimore and Maryland who have suffered brain damage or other effects due to exposure to lead paint that was not properly handled by the landlord or property owner. To review whether financial compensation may be available for a lead poisoning brain injury, request a free consultation and claim evaluation.

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