Leaded gasoline was responsible for about two-thirds of toxic lead that African-American children in Cleveland ingested or inhaled during the latter two-thirds of the 20th century, according to a new study in Science of the Total Environment.
Researchers from Case Western Reserve University say what they've shown in Cleveland probably applies to many cities across the U.S. and reinforces concerns about the health threat for children in countries still using leaded gasoline. However, they emphasize that the results do not minimize the ongoing importance of current childhood lead exposure due to persistence and deterioration of leaded paint which was used as late as the 1960's.
Extrapolation from lead analyses of teeth from 124 residents of urban Cleveland neighborhoods show that "at the peak of leaded gasoline usage, in the 1960's and early 70's, the levels of lead in the bloodstream were likely to be toxic," said Norman Robbins, emeritus professor of neurosciences at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. Research of others has shown that these levels of lead are associated with significant neurological and behavioral defects lasting into adulthood, he said.
"It raises the question, has leaded gasoline had a lasting effect on many present-day Cleveland adults?" Robbins said.
Robbins, who began the study 17 years ago, put together an interdisciplinary team to determine what was the predominant recent historic source of lead exposure within the city. Leaded gasoline, lead paint, and lead soldering in food cans had been implicated.
"The findings are important today," said Jiayang Sun, professor of statistics at CWRU and a co-author of the study. "Some countries are still using leaded gasoline."
The United Nations Environment Programme says Afghanistan, Myanmar and North Korea rely on leaded gasoline while Algeria, Bosnia, Egypt, Iraq, Serbia and Yemen sell both leaded and unleaded gasoline.
|Contact: Susan Griffith|
Case Western Reserve University