Lead in air pol­lu­tion ham­pers brain de­vel­op­ment in kids, says study

Millennium Post - - CITY - YOGESH KANT

NEW DELHI: Early ex­po­sure to en­vi­ron­men­tal tox­ins like lead, air pol­lu­tion, and ar­senic can have long-last­ing and ir­re­versible con­se­quences in chil­dren's brain de­vel­op­ment, es­pe­cially in the de­vel­op­ing world.

How­ever, Dr Sh­ef­fali Gu­lati, Child neu­rol­ogy di­vi­sion, All In­dia In­sti­tute of Med­i­cal Sci­ence (AIIMS) has ob­served hun­dreds of chil­dren with neu­rode­vel­op­men­tal dis­or­der every week while us­ing quan­ti­ta­tive EEG and psy­cho­log­i­cal eval­u­a­tion.

Dr Gu­lati writes, she is cur­rently in­ves­ti­gat­ing pos­si­ble link be­tween chil­dren be­hav­iour prob­lems and chronic back­ground ex­po­sure to heavy me­tals in­clud­ing lead.

Kam Sri­pada, is a PHD can­di­date at the Nor­we­gian Univer­sity for Sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy re­cently pub­lished an ar­ti­cle in the journal Neu­ron, ti­tled “Be­gin­ning with the Small­est In­take: Chil­dren's Brain De­vel­op­ment and the Role of Neu­ro­science in Global En­vi­ron­men­tal Health” that dis­cusses how th­ese tox­ins af­fect the grow­ing brain and how to sup­port chil­dren's healthy de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing in In­dia.

In this study, Dr Gu­lati have seen dozen of cases of lead poi­son­ing, in­clud­ing chil­dren with blood lead lev­els above 200 μg/dl (By con­trast, the CDC found in 2015 that 0.5% of Amer­i­can chil­dren un­der 3 years old had blood lead lev­els at or above 10 μg/dl).

“At high ex­po­sure lev­els, chil­dren may present with non-spe­cific symp­toms re­sem­bling other dis­or­ders, rang­ing from seizures to hear­ing loss, vom­it­ing, and ane­mia, since lead's mech­a­nisms of ac­tion can af­fect mul­ti­ple or­gan sys­tems” Dr Gu­lati said.

She fur­ther said, “This presents a chal­lenge to physi­cians while de­ter­min­ing a di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment plan.”

Com­ing to the All In­dia In­sti­tute of Med­i­cal Sci­ences in New Delhi as a part of a PHD pro­gram, Kam Sri­pada in­ter­viewed Dr. Sh­ef­fali Gu­lati at the child neu­rol­ogy di­vi­sion, which con­ducts re­search into the ef­fects of heavy me­tals - in par­tic­u­lar lead - on chil­dren's brain de­vel­op­ment.

Decades of re­search have shown that in­creased lead in the blood can be linked to poorer at­ten­tion, lower IQ scores, and hear­ing and vi­sion prob­lems.

Yet lead is also a part of many prod­ucts and in­dus­trial ac­tiv­i­ties in coun­tries around the world, so chil­dren con­tinue to have lead in ar­eas where they live and play.

The study fur­ther noted that there is no an­ti­dote avail­able for lead, and the neu­robe­hav­ioral ef­fects fol­low­ing early ex­po­sure ap­pear to be ir­re­versible.

Pub­lic pol­icy—in­formed by ex­po­sure sci­ence link­ing blood lead lev­els to cog­ni­tive de­cline—has re­duced ex­po­sure to lead sig­nif­i­cantly in many coun­tries. Yet glob­ally, ex­po­sure routes abound in ar­eas where chil­dren live, learn, and play.

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