Ripple effects of childhood lead poisoning

In addition to causing health and behavioral problems in children, lead poisoning may result in serious costs to both a child’s future and to society.

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Ripple Effects

Childhood Lead Poisoning

Health Problems
Lead is not safe at any level. Lead poisoning can cause permanent brain damage in children, and possible damage to the central nervous system, kidneys, and reproductive system.
Learning Disabilities
Lead in the blood is linked to symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Hyperactivity
Lead in the blood is linked to hyperactivity and lower IQ as measured by IQ tests.
Speech Disorders
Lead poisoning can cause damage to the brain and nervous system resulting in speech delay.
Childhood Deliquency
Lead poisoning can lead to aggression and criminal behavior.
Reduced Intelligence/ Lower IQ Scores
It is estimated that children who are lead poisoned below 10 µg/dL, the threshold for most legislation, will lose 5–7 IQ points.
Crime in Adulthood
Lead poisoning in childhood has been connected to more arrests and/or arrests for violent offenses as adults.
Behavioral Disorders
Lead poisoning has been associated with inattention, impulsivity, delays in reaction time, and hyperactivity.

Costs to Child's Future

Academic Failure
As the amount of lead in a child’s blood increases, research shows a decrease in math and reading scores.
Learning Difficulties
Childhood lead poisoning can affect the ability of the brain and nervous system to work together to connect thinking and behavior.
Lack of Employment
For each IQ point that is lost, a child makes an estimated $16,809 less over the course of his or her lifetime.
Life-long Health Problems
At high levels, lead poisoning causes damage to the child’s central nervous system, kidneys, and reproductive system.
Criminal Record
The estimated total direct costs of violent crimes linked to early childhood lead poisoning is nearly $1.8 billion.
Socialization Problems
Lead poisoning affects the parts of the brain that control moods, planning, and decision-making.

Costs to Society

Healthcare
Preventing childhood lead poisoning in the U.S. could save up to $44 million per year in healthcare costs.
Joblessness
Childhood lead poisoning has been shown to cause loss of IQ points, life-long illnesses, and lower academic achievement—all of which can affect the ability to hold down a job.
Special Education
There is a strong link between childhood lead poisoning and a need for special education due to lowered IQ and impaired neurobehavioral function.
Juvenile Justice
The estimated total direct costs of violent crimes linked to early childhood lead poisoning is nearly $1.8 billion.

Prepared by LeadSafe Illinois at Loyola University Chicago Civitas ChildLaw Center and Policy Institute

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