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Am J Epidemiol. 1994 Sep 15;140(6):489-99.

Tooth lead levels and IQ in school-age children: the Port Pirie Cohort Study.

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Department of Community Medicine, Medical School, University of Adelaide, Australia.


The relation between lead concentration in deciduous central upper incisor teeth and intellectual functioning was examined in 262 children who were followed from birth to age 7 years in the lead smelter town of Port Pirie, South Australia, and its environs. Intellectual functioning of the children was assessed over the 3-year period from 1986 to 1989 with the revised Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-R) while each child was in his or her eighth year. There was an inverse relation between tooth lead concentration and intellectual development; the intelligence quotient declined by 2.6 points (90% confidence interval (CI) 0.13-4.9) for each natural-log unit increase in tooth lead concentration, expressed in parts per million. Some WISC-R subscales were more strongly associated with lead exposure than others. In particular, tooth lead was significantly negatively associated with scores for the "Block Design" test (partial regression coefficient -1.25 points per unit of natural-log tooth lead; 90% CI -0.61 to -1.89). No statistically significant interaction between a child's sex and tooth lead concentration was found for any of the WISC-R scales. These findings are in agreement with previously published results from this cohort for which serial blood lead concentrations were used to estimate lifetime lead burden.

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