Lead accumulation affects brain adversely

Toxins can make you stupid

Published: Saturday 15 July 2006

Lead made a grand entry as an additive in automobile fuel in 1923. Its adverse effects are still being confirmed. According to a study in the May 23 issue of Neurology (Vol 66, No 10), accumulated lead is associated with lower cerebral functions.

The research team, led by W F Stewart of the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, usa, took into account a group of workers exposed to lead that they followed since the early 1990s, though its use in automobile fuel in the us stopped about 18 years ago. The workers were between 40 and 70 when production of leaded fuel stopped.

Increased white matter lesion burden is linked to increasing risk of diabetes, hypertension and premature ageing. People with greater white matter lesion burden can also be more vulnerable to cognitive impairment, memory deficits, impaired motor performance, mood disorders and stroke.

The scientists even found cognitive decline after exposure had stopped. The results on neuropsychological tests were comparable with five years of ageing. The study suggests lead exposure causes irreversible changes to the brain.

Earlier studies by the same group show that lead exposure was associated with cognitive deficits in the same group.

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