Lead exposure rates among African-American and Hispanic children roughly double those of white children. LEAD EXPOSURE LOWERS FOURTH GRADERS' TEST SCORES
MADISON - Lead exposure is related to lower test scores among Wisconsin fourth graders, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"What we find is that even low amounts of lead exposure during early development have direct, measurable, negative consequences for children's school performance later in life," says Mike Amato, a doctoral candidate in psychology and environmental studies and one of the authors of the study, recently published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology.
Students in Milwaukee Public Schools were included in the study, which was coordinated by researchers at UW-Madison and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
The most common source of lead exposure is contaminated dust from paint in older homes, according to Amato. "Children exposed to moderate amounts of lead often do not show immediate symptoms," he explains. "However, our study suggests that effects can last long after the initial exposure and have a measurable impact on test scores."
The study also found that lead exposure rates among African-American and Hispanic children were roughly double those of white children. Kanarek says lead exposure in children is a matter of social justice.
"Students who have been exposed to lead are at a considerable disadvantage the first day they show up at school, before they've even met a teacher," says Kanarek. "Lead exposure decreases cognitive ability in all children regardless of race, but the fact that African-American and Hispanic students were twice as likely as white students to be exposed suggests part of the racial achievement gap may be directly due to lead in the environment. If that's true, then educational reforms alone will not eliminate the problem. We need to clean up contaminated housing."
For more information on childhood lead exposure and how to prevent it, Wisconsin residents should contact the Department of Health Services Wisconsin Healthy Homes and Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 608-266-5817 or visit www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/lead.
University of Wisconsin-Madison. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 1/8/13 Contact: Marty Kanarek, 608-263-1626, email@example.com; Mike Amato, 617-538-7270, firstname.lastname@example.org - Steve Pomplun, 608-263-3063, email@example.com