Tuesday, May 16, 2000

Study: Low-level lead hazard

Children's sounds warning

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Lead in the blood can damage childhood learning abilities even at levels less than half current acceptable limits, according to research from Children's Hospital Medical Center.

        Results of the blood-lead study were among three locally conducted studies highlighted Sunday and Monday in Boston at a meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Pediatric Academic Medical Societies.

        Analysis of more than 4,800 children who participated in a na tional health and nutrition exam found math and reading scores diminished for children with blood lead levels as low as 2.5 micrograms per deciliter, according to Dr. Bruce Lanphear, the study's main author.

        The current national “action level” for lead in blood is 10 micrograms per deciliter, a limit that has been reduced several times since 1970. When children are found with elevated blood lead levels, Cincinnati and many other cities require housing repairs to eliminate lead paint hazards.

        Dr. Lanphear estimated 12.8 million American children born between 1972 and 1988 have blood lead levels exceeding 2.5 micrograms per deciliter. He contends acceptable limits for lead in blood should be reduced even fur ther.

        Children's Hospital researchers also reported about a way to use X-rays to spot physical child abuse and about the reliability of child testimony in sex abuse cases:

        „X-rays and child abuse: X-rays taken two or more weeks after an alleged beating have proven surprisingly useful in investigating child abuse allegations, emergency physician Dr. Stephanie Zimmerman said.

        Sometimes, X-rays taken shortly after an injury can miss a small fracture. But follow-up X-rays can spot where new bone has built up to repair the damage, Dr. Zimmerman reported.

        In 13 of 27 children under age 4 who were suspected victims of abuse, follow-up X-rays revealed new information. That included seven patients with 14 previously undetected broken bones. In another four cases, X-rays helped reverse initial suspicions of abuse.

        „Sex abuse testimony: While many debate the accuracy of child testimony in sex abuse cases, a study conducted at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and at Children's Hospital reported most children accurately recall details of their abuse.

        The researchers compared reports of specific acts in victim allegations with details in the confessions of 31 pedophiles.

        It turns out that abusers confessed to 68 percent of victim allegations, and denied 6 percent.

        Details were not available for 26 percent of the allegations.


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- Study: Low-level lead hazard
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