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Even Low Levels of Lead Hamper Kindergartners' Reading Skills: Study
Date:5/14/2013

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 14 (HealthDay News) -- Even children with low levels of lead in their blood score lower on reading-readiness tests when they begin kindergarten, a new study found.

"We now know that poorer scores on reading-readiness tests are associated with low lead levels," said researcher Patricia McLaine, director of community/public health nursing at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. "That's important, because we are very concerned about children having sufficient reading readiness when they enter kindergarten.

"For success at school, it's another indication that we need to identify children who are being exposed to lead and take action to protect them and reduce their exposure," she added.

McLaine said she believes there is no safe level of lead exposure for children. Last year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lowered the blood lead level that would be considered concerning from 10 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dl) to 5 mcg/dl. That means many more children under the age of 5 can now be diagnosed with too much lead in their blood, a condition that has been linked to developmental problems and even a lower IQ, according to the agency.

But one expert said that is not enough, particularly given the latest findings.

"This confirms that there is really no safe level of lead," said Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative.

"The CDC should eliminate the term 'level of concern,' and say any level is of concern," she said.

"Clearly, zero has to be the goal," Norton said. "We have set a false guidance. We have failed more generations of kids by not aggressively moving to zero tolerance of lead poisoning."

Another expert echoed that concern.

"The idea that there is a correlation between low lead levels and reading readiness and school performance is very concerning," said Dr. J
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