Medical studies have examined whether children’s school performance is related to their exposure to lead. These studies have demonstrated that many academic skills and performance suffer from that exposure. These studies have also demonstrated that for school skills and performance are persistent problems which resulted in learning disabilities and a very high rate of failure to graduate from high school. These studies also demonstrate that these academic problems have an enduring and negative impact on success in real life.
In one of the most important research projects in the field Dr. Herbert Needleman followed a group of children who had been exposed to lead. He published a medical article in the New England Journal of medicine providing his findings of an 11 year or follow-up for these lead poisoned children. The children with the highest lead exposures were seven times more likely to drop out of high school. Higher lead levels were also associated with lower class rank, increased absenteeism, lower scores on vocabulary and grammatical reasoning tests, significantly slower finger-tapping speed, longer reaction times, poorer hand-I coordination, and lower reading scores. These impairments of reading skills were sufficiently extensive to be labeled reading disability (indicated by scores to grades below the expected scores).
Recent studies have used cutting edge diagnostic procedures such as MRI and MRS to assess direct measures of brain damage. These studies have given strong support to the conclusion that brain damage from lead poisoning is permanent. In the fall of 2006 and important paper was published in the Journal of Pediatrics providing stunning visual representations of the brain damage from lead poisoning.
There have also been efforts to determine whether brain damage from lead can be reversed by providing chelation therapy to children. Regrettably, these studies show that very little can be done medically for children once they are lead poisoned. These studies point to the need to undertake aggressive steps to eliminate any chance of lead exposure for young children. In addition, these studies have demonstrated that brain damage from lead does not stop occurring as children get older. To the contrary, even lead exposure for school age children has been demonstrated to result in permanent loss of intelligence.