Childhood lead exposure was associated with worsening cognitive functioning by late adulthood, according to research publicized in Science Advances.
Researchers used a nationally representative sample of American elderly people as part of historical administrative data from the 1940s to explore how exposure to lead in water may affect long-term cognition.
“Using a nationally representative sample of U.S. older adults linked to historical administrative data from 1940, we find that older adults who lived as children in cities with lead pipes and acidic or alkaline water—the conditions required for lead to leach into drinking water—had worse cognitive functioning but not steeper cognitive decline,” the authors detailed in their research article.
“About a quarter of the association between lead and late-life cognition was accounted for by educational attainment. Within the next 10 years, American children exposed to high levels of lead during the 1970s will enter older ages.”
“Our evidence highlights the need for stronger actions to identify interventions to mitigate long-term damage among people at high risk.”