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Pediatrics. 1987 Nov;80(5):721-30.

Low-level fetal lead exposure effect on neurobehavioral development in early infancy.

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Department of Environmental Health, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, OH.


A prospective method was used in this study to assess the effects of fetal lead exposure on neurodevelopmental status in 3- and 6-month old infants. At their first prenatal medical appointments, 305 lower socioeconomic status women residing in predesignated lead-hazardous areas of Cincinnati were recruited. Lead was measured in whole blood in both the mother and fetal-placental unit (prenatal and cord) and the neonate (ten days and 3 months). All blood lead levels were less than 30 micrograms/dL. Infant development was assessed with the Bayley scales at 3 and 6 months of age. Multiple regression analyses which treated perinatal health factors such as birth weight and gestation as confounders indicated an independent, inverse relationship between both prenatal and neonatal blood lead levels and performance on the Bayley Mental Developmental Index at both ages. Male infants and infants from the poorest families appeared to be especially sensitive to these psychoteratogenic influences. Further study using a structural equations approach indicated that neurobehavioral deficits were partly mediated by lead-related reductions in birth weight and gestation.

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