A new study finds that hundreds of young children in the Washington D.C. area experienced potentially damaging amounts of lead in their blood when lead levels were rising in the city’s tap water.
In some neighborhoods, the number of toddlers and infants with blood-lead concentrations that can cause irreversible IQ loss and developmental delays more than doubled after lead began leaching into the city’s drinking water in 2001, according to the findings to be published in Environmental Science and Technology journal.
The study showed findings that raise concern about the 42,000 D.C. children, now ages 4 to 9, who were in the womb or younger than 2 during the water crisis.
The study, based on blood tests from 2000 to 2003, contradicts the public assurances issued by federal and D.C. health officials.
The current researchers found the most dramatic rise in the number of children with unsafe blood-lead levels in Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights, the southeastern portion of Capitol Hill, a large swath of Ward 4 along Georgia Avenue, and Northeast Washington’s Langdon Park.
Specialists say damage from lead is often permanent. Children can exhibit signs of aggressiveness and difficulty focusing in school. Numerous studies show lead-poisoned children can on average lose 3 to 7 IQ points.
Children younger than 2 and fetuses are the most vulnerable to permanent damage from lead, experts agree, because their brains are still developing and because they tend to both ingest and absorb much more of the toxic metal than do adults or older children, based on their body weight. Federal health officials have long viewed lead paint as the most dominant source of lead poisoning for children.
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