Poor and ethnic minority children in the United States have a significantly greater risk for exposure to toxic pollutants that can affect their cognitive development and other health indicators than higher income and non-minority peers, and current local, state and federal policies appear to be failing to address these inequities. That's the finding laid out in a review of social injustice and environmental pollutants and their effects on children published in the March/April issue of Child Development.
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison note that while all children are at risk for the deleterious effects of environmental toxin exposure, those living in poverty, particularly African-American children and children of migrant farm workers, have a significantly higher risk.
For instance, while lead exposure in the U.S. continues to fall, African-American children living in poverty still have many times the risk of high lead exposure compared to white children. That can have a significant effect on their cognitive ability and school performance since childhood lead exposure is associated with lower IQ scores and higher restlessness, inattention and aggression.
Specifically, while 9.3 percent of children in the overall population who are exposed to lead score below 80 IQ points, that figure jumps to 14.2 percent in African-American children. Further, national survey data indicate that higher blood lead levels among
African-American children may account for an average difference of 4.2 IQ test points compared to white children.
"Lead exposure gives these children an unfair start in life in addition to placing additional burdens on schools serving disadvantaged populations," notes lead author Janean E. Dilworth-Bart, Ph.D., assistant professor of human development and family studies. However, she adds, strict enforcement of lead abatement policies reduces future lead poisonings.
Yet enforcement varies widely by Page: 1 2 Related medicine news :1
Contact: Andrea Browning
Society for Research in Child Development
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