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New research suggests that childhood lead exposure may lead to cognitive decline in adulthood, meaning that people develop symptoms of dementia earlier.
The study, one of the first to look at the long-term effects of lead poisoning, suggests that countries could see a surge in the number of people with dementia.
“In the US, and I think the UK, children were most exposed to lead in the 1960s and 70s. Most leaded gasoline was used at the time, lead in paint was still widespread, and municipal water systems did little to clean up water from lead”, — said Professor John Robert Warren of the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis, who participated in the study.
and dementia will become commonplace. So, potentially, this is the coming wave of problems for the people who were most vulnerable.
While scientists have long known that lead-exposed children and adults have poorer cognitive and educational outcomes, few studies have examined long-term effects.
Warren and colleagues combined data from the US Health and Exit Study. retirement, which tracked the brain health of thousands of adults over several decades, with census records to pinpoint exactly where 1,089 of those people lived as children. They also mapped the locations of cities that used lead pipes and water was acidic or alkaline, indicating high lead exposure.
A study published in the journal Science Advances found that people who lived in cities with lead-contaminated water as children had poorer baseline cognitive function — measure of their ability to learn, process information and reason — at the age of 72 compared to those who lived in other places. The difference in the health status of the subjects was approximately eight years of “biological age”.
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