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Pros and Cons of Therapy for Lead Exposure

grams per deciliter, such drugs as succimer are commonly administered at much lower levels of exposure, due to concerns about lasting complications with even slightly elevated blood lead levels.

It is important to remove lead from the body as quickly as possible to prevent or lessen lasting damage to the developing brain. High-lead exposure from peeling lead-based paint can lead to coma, convulsions and even death. At lower levels, lead exposure causes attention deficits, delinquency and difficulty regulating emotions and can lower IQ scores at a rate of about one IQ point per microgram/deciliter of exposure.

The study used rats -- whose mental and behavioral responses to lead exposure are similar to humans' -- and exposed them to moderate- and high-lead levels (administered via mothers' milk). A third group -- the control -- was not exposed. Exposures were followed by a treatment with succimer or placebo. Immediately thereafter, the researchers conducted automated tests over six months on the rats' attention, memory and abilities to learn and regulate emotions.

The rats with moderate-lead exposure benefited greatly from the succimer: Their test results were indistinguishable from the control test results. Rats exposed to higher lead levels showed benefits in the emotional domain: After succimer treatment, they behaved similarly to the control group. However, the treatment only slightly improved their learning deficit.

In the group that had no lead exposure but were given succimer, "we found lasting cognition and emotion-regulation [deficits] that were as pervasive and large as rats with high lead exposure," said Strupp. She added that one possibility is that succimer, in the absence of lead, may disrupt the balance of such essential minerals as zinc and iron. "These findings raise concerns about the use of chelating agents in treating autistic children," she said.

Source-Newswise
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