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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UIC Researchers Find Exposure to Lead in Childhood Linked to Poor Academic Achievement

A recent study by University of Illinois at Chicago researchers published in the journal Environmental Health, found that early childhood lead exposure is associated with poor achievement on standardized reading and math tests in third grade, even at very low levels.

Lead is a known neurotoxin that has been associated with intellectual and learning deficits and behavioral disorders in children.

The researchers, in the UIC School of Public Health, looked at 58,650 children born in Chicago between 1994 and 1998 who had blood tests for lead between birth and 2006 and were enrolled in third grade in a Chicago public school between 2003 and 2006. For each child, they looked at their Chicago birth registry, the Chicago Blood Lead Registry and the 3rd grade ISAT scores to examine association between blood lead levels and school performance.

After adjusting for poverty, race/ethnicity, gender, maternal education and low birth weight or preterm birth, they confirmed that early childhood B-Pbs are a major risk factor for poor academic achievement among 3rd graders enrolled in CPS schools.

The researchers write that “Although B-Pbs have decreased over the past three decades across the whole of the United States, lead exposure remains a critical problem for large, urban, public school systems that are educating at-risk children. Preventing lead poisoning in early childhood is, therefore, an essential component of a strategy to improve the school success of lower income students.”

The study can be read in full here: