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Environ Health Perspect. 1975 Dec;12:119-23.

Developmental and behavioral changes in the rat during chronic exposure to lead.


Young male and female Sprague-Dawley rats were given drinking water containing 5 or 50 ppm Pb for 40 days prior to mating. Pregnant females were continued on these regimens throughout gestation and lactation. After weaning the offspring were similarly exposed through adulthood. Reflex development, body weights, and locomotor activity were measured in the offspring. Significant delays were noted in the development of the righting reflex at 5 and 50 ppm and in eye opening at 50 ppm. No difference was observed in development of the startle reflex at either dose. Mean body weights of treatment groups during this developmental period were not significantly different from controls. Locomotor activity was measured in adult males utilizing a residential maze. Both levels of lead produced a significant reduction in locomotor activity. When groups were treated with d-amphetamine (4.0 mg/kg subcutaneous), lead treatment caused a dose-related diminution in the amphetamine-induced hyperactivity. These results indicate that rats exposed to low levels of lead from conception until adulthood show a delay in nervous system development. As adults, these animals exhibit hypoactivity and decreased responsiveness to amphetamine.

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