We’re Losing IQ Points ”: Lead Poisoning Crisis Among Children in the United States | Children’s Health

We’re Losing IQ Points ”: Lead Poisoning Crisis Among Children in the United States | Children’s Health

9-year-old Turokk Dow loves spelling, airplanes and basketball. He is learning to read and write in a third grade classroom.

However, at the age of three, he suffers from extreme blood lead poisoning, with lead levels almost ten times higher than EPA’s behavioral levels, significantly exacerbating the already substantial challenges of his young life.

As an infant, he had to rush to the hospital and started several months of “chelating” treatment to absorb the lead in his body. These included having him swallow a liquid that his mom said “smelled and tasted like a rotten egg.”

“His level was so high that lead was actually stored in his muscles and bones,” said his mother, Nette Catholdi-Dow. He is now Rhode Island..

She said last year, five years after the poison was first detected, his lead levels dropped to single digits, approaching the EPA’s behavioral level of 5 micrograms per deciliter. He doesn’t have the ability to talk yet, and his mother always wonders how Reed contributed to many of his learning tasks.

“It was scary,” said Catholdi-Dow, who said Reed came from the paint on her 100-year-old home in the town of Attleboro. “At first I felt like I did something wrong or couldn’t keep him safe. Guilt is a big part of it for my parents.”

Turokk Dow is one of about 87,000 infants diagnosed with lead poisoning each year in the United States more than 30 years after neurotoxins were banned as a component of paints, gasoline and water pipes. Today, lead remains in homes and apartments, gardens and water services, and wherever states and communities enhance testing, it becomes clear that the national lead problem is worse than we are aware of. First, experts say.

NS study As announced in JAM Pediatrics this fall, more than half of all children in the United States have detectable levels of lead in their blood, with elevated blood lead levels in race, poverty, and old homes. It was suggested that it is closely related to the life of. Black children are especially at risk.

“Most American children are exposed to lead, a substance that is not safe at any level,” said Dr. Harvey Kaufman, senior medical director at Quest Diagnostics, who led the study. I am. According to the CDC, “[e]Even low levels of lead in the blood have been shown to adversely affect a child’s intelligence, attention and academic performance. “

“This is a problem for the entire United States,” Kaufman said. “It’s really everywhere.”

The national program to detect lead before poisoning children and identify exposed people is surprisingly humorous.

“We literally use children’s blood as a detector for environmental pollution,” said Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha, a pediatrician who helped uncover the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. It states.

In states like Rhode Island, every child needs to be screened for lead poisoning twice by the age of three, investing in early detection of lead poisoning. However, such initiatives also show the difficulty of removing toxins from our everyday environment.

Without solid testing, the state does not know how terrible their lead problems are and is at risk of leaving sick children behind. “The lead epidemic is the longest-running epidemic in our country,” said a woman in Rhode Island, whose son suffered severe lead poisoning 20 years ago and has since solved the problem. Liz Colon, who became a national supporter, said.

Liz Colon became a supporter after his son suffered from severe lead poisoning. Photo: Erin McCormick

“There are few Michigan flint everywhere,” she said. “But if you don’t test it, it doesn’t seem to exist.”

“Cloud between getting sick and sad”

Due to decades of pressure from parents and organizers running children’s lead action programs, Rhode Island is doing far more children’s blood tests than most states across the country.

Health advocates have discovered that lead pollution is often considered a thing of the past, with hundreds of new cases of addicted children being discovered each year and persisting in many communities. is.

Growing up in Providence’s public housing, Terry Wright says he doesn’t know if the lead that poisoned her came from the strip paint or lead water pipes in her building. But she directly learned how the substance can leave a lasting mark on a young person’s life.

“I remember spending my childhood in this cloud between illness and sadness,” he said, still suffering from the social anxiety that developed because he was too weak and enthusiastic to play with other children. Wright, 51 years old. Currently, she doesn’t trust Providence tap water and buys 6-8 cases of bottled water every week for her family.

Wright recently joined dozens of Rhode Island activists on the steps of the State Capitol, demanding the replacement of all lead pipes in the state’s aging housing stock.

All in all It is estimated that 100,000 lead water services are used in private homes in Rhode Island. And each year, about 600 children in the state are found to have blood lead levels high enough to meet EPA intervention levels.

However, children in Rhode Island may be luckier than children in other states where a huge number of cases are not believed to be detected.

For example, in California 2020 report It turns out that 1.4 million low-income children who were supposed to be tested have never been tested for sepsis. In some states, such as New York, all children need to be tested, but often lack follow-up.Study by New York City Accounting Auditor Found That 9,000 rental Buildings where children were tested positive for sepsis were never tested for lead, so additional children became addicted.

“As a society, we are losing IQ points because of lead exposure,” said Tom Nertner of the Environmental Defense Fund. “In individual children, you’re not going to see it. But statistically, we find that children are more likely to have behavioral problems, learning problems, and low incomes. Studies have shown that they are more likely to be arrested and more likely to behave violently, which is all we really don’t want for the next generation. “

Children across the country are at risk. Lead water pipes are still found in millions of homes in all 50 states. study Discovered by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Liz Colon had three sons, one of whom had significantly elevated blood lead levels during infancy.Thanks to the state health program for helping her identify his problem, She was able to teach him as a child to make up for the developmental flaws that Reed might have caused.

But today, when she sees her sons, Colon I think she might see a slight difference that lead may have contributed.

“My son, who became lead poisoned, has an impulsive dysregulation and can be aggressive,” she said, adding that he never got into trouble. “These are the very subtleties of lead poisoning.”

“It all comes down to racing and class.”

As a former state case manager currently working on a childhood lead action project in Rhode Island, Elizabeth Soriano has seen the devastation of lead poisoning with her own eyes. She often worked with children a few years old who couldn’t speak yet, or who couldn’t concentrate on or follow their parents’ instructions.

She saw that interventions such as removing leads and providing educational support could make a big difference in their lives.

“All of this can bring misery to a growing infant with all these problems,” she said. “It’s preventable. You shouldn’t deal with this.”

According to a 2017 Pew Charitable Trust survey, taking steps to prevent lead exposure in children could bring enormous economic benefits to society.

Still, poor communities may lack the necessary funding to implement such prevention and remediation programs. President Biden has made environmental justice a pillar of his administration, but the final version of the infrastructure bill includes $ 15 billion for the removal of lead water pipes, far less than the originally proposed $ 45 billion. ..

Studies published in JAMA We found that children living in areas with the highest levels of poverty were 2.5 times more likely to suffer from sepsis.

According to Colon, lead poisoning tends to be ignored because it is much more common in poorly colored areas where people tend to live in older homes.

“It all comes down to racing and class,” she said. “Lead was known as this dirty four-letter word. What people [associate] Dirty people who don’t clean the house and the kids just sit and eat the paint shards are the protagonists. It is that stigma that continues to disrupt our society. “

Turokk Dow was diagnosed with autism in 18 months. This is a condition in which the mother stated that it had occurred before lead poisoning. However, she believes that the addiction affected her son’s speech, giving him years of nausea that suppressed his appetite.

Turokk Dow has endured the unpleasant treatment of lead poisoning for several years.
Turokk Dow has endured the unpleasant treatment of lead poisoning for several years. Photo: Nette Catholdi-Dow

Treatment of lead poisoning was also difficult. In addition to having to be forced to give a terrifying sulphate, he had to be restrained so that doctors could have an intravenous blood test every three months for years. ..

Catholdi-Dow never knows how much of his speech delay was caused by lead poisoning. But she said his speech and diet improved significantly as soon as his lead levels dropped. Today he learns to ask for what he wants and can say a few sentences.

Catholdi-Dow said he wants more education for his parents and more steps to prevent this kind of addiction from happening so far.

“They aren’t doing anything until the kids get addicted,” Catholdi-Dow said. “There must have been more tests-or at least more questions about the type of housing we lived in.”

We’re Losing IQ Points ”: Lead Poisoning Crisis Among Children in the United States | Children’s Health

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