Chicago Study Links Lead Poisoning to Lower Test Scores

January 21, 2013 - Three decades after the dangers of lead were discovered, the largest study on how lead poisoning effects school children has revealed that the problem is more widespread than people realized, the Chicago Reader reported in its Nov. 1 issue.

A recent study from the University of Illinois at Chicago by Anne Evens examined the blood lead levels of third-graders between 2003 and 2006. Evens uncovered that at 75 percent of Chicago’s 464 elementary schools; the students’ average blood level was high enough to be considered poisoned, according to standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Evens analyzed data from both the health department and the Chicago Public Schools and looked at thousands of student records, the Reader reported. She compared students’ lead poisoning test results with their standardized test scores. She was able to control for outside factors that might affect a child’s learning ability, including poverty, mother’s education level and birth weight.

Her study found that a child with even low levels of lead in his or her body was more likely to fail third grade. She also found that lead-poisoned children scored an average of six points lower on standardized tests – enough to make a difference between passing and failing.

Chicago authorities now estimate that one in 12 Chicago children has lead poisoning, making it home to more cases of lead toxicity than any other large city in the U.S.

Lead paint, banned in 1978, is present in thousands of older homes and apartment buildings. Children typically get lead poisoning from ingesting it as dust that’s created when old windows and doors are opened and closed.

Some tips to keep children safe from lead poisoning:

  •  Have your child’s blood tested by a pediatrician.
  •  Check for peeling paint, and check windows, which cause lead to spread from the friction of opening and closing them.
  •  Get inspected by calling the city.
  •  Check for lead before renovating a home and take proper precautions to avoid exposure during renovation.

SOURCE: The Chicago Reader

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