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Very Low Levels of Lead Harm Kids' Kidneys: Study

Amounts deemed safe are still too high, researchers say

MONDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Even very low levels of lead may harm children's kidneys, say U.S. researchers.

The lead level of concern for children is 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, a new Johns Hopkins Children's Center study suggests that even levels below 10 micrograms are a health threat.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that very low levels of lead may impact kidney function in healthy children, which underscores the need to minimize sources of lead exposure," lead investigator and pediatric nephrologist Dr. Jeffrey Fadrowski said in a Hopkins news release.

"Our findings were particularly striking because we saw slightly decreased kidney function in healthy children without conditions that could account for it, and this could spell more kidney trouble down the road as these children get older or if they acquire additional risk factors for kidney disease, such as high blood pressure and diabetes," added senior investigator and pediatric nephrologist Dr. Susan Furth.

The study included 769 healthy individuals, aged 12 to 20. More than 99 percent of them had lead levels below 10 micrograms per deciliter, with an average of 1.5 micrograms. The researchers found worse kidney function among those with lead levels in the upper quarter of the normal range than among those with lower lead levels, according to the report in the Jan. 11 issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

Current sources of lead exposure include lead paint, glazed pottery, certain folk remedies, soil and drinking water in some urban areas with older housing.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about lead.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, Jan. 11, 2010

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