From the mid-1960s until the late 1980s, gasoline was commonly treated with lead, leading to contamination of the air and soil that exposed people to the toxin. Many adults are currently living with the consequences. Today, lead poisoning is less common, but is still found in old buildings that contain lead pipes and paint.
It has long been noted that exposure to lead can cause brain development and learning problems in children. Recently, childhood exposure to the heavy metal has been linked decades later to additional negative issues experienced by now-adult subjects regarding their mental health and personality traits. JAMA Psychiatry published a report that found high readings of blood lead levels of individuals at age 11 were more likely to experience mental illness and troublesome personality traits at age 38. A previous study by the same research team linked childhood lead exposure to lower IQ and social standing decades later.
If a child is tested for lead exposure, they will be flagged to undergo further testing and possible intervention if lead levels are above five micrograms per deciliter of blood (ug/dL). In the early 1970s, New Zealand was listed among the areas with the highest levels of lead. More than 1000 people born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1972 and 1973 have been participating in an ongoing evaluation of their physical and mental health. Ninety-four percent of these participants tested above five ug/dL at age 11.
The health impacts they experienced are relatable to many people elsewhere in the world, as similar levels of lead were common in many industrialized countries at the time of the participants’ exposure. The study recorded symptoms relating to 11 different types of psychiatric disorders to calculate the psychopathology factors. The measurements took into account symptoms associated with the following mental disorders:
A study subject’s psychopathology factor score was used to indicate the number and intensity of these illnesses. Using these indicators, analysis suggests that exposure to lead affects mental health.
Interviews with family and friends of the test subjects indicated that individuals with higher lead exposure levels were more neurotic and less conscientious. These traits have also been linked to difficulty in personal relationships, lack of job fulfillment, and other complaints. As the study participants age, the researchers plan to investigate a possible correlation between childhood lead exposure and diseases that develop later in life, such as dementia or cardiovascular disease. The team’s decades-long research indicates that treating symptoms and conditions that result from exposure to lead is a long-term undertaking.
If you or a loved one has suffered due to lead exposure, you are urged to contact the Wilmington chemical exposure lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. To schedule a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 302-656-5445. With offices located in Wilmington and Georgetown, Delaware, we proudly serve clients throughout Dover, New Castle County, and Sussex County.