We studied the relationship between exposure to lead and memory' and attention in children. Participants were 313 boys aged 9 to 12 years who attended special education schools in the Netherlands. Children whose possible attentional or memory problerns were obviously due to causes other than lead contamination were excluded from the study. Cognition was assessed by extensive theory-based testing. Blood lead concentration was measured to assess body lead burden. Possible confounding factors that might affect blood lead level and/or cognitive functioning were assessed. Blood lead levels were higher in children with lower socioeconomic status and in children with more hand-to-mouth behavior, and varied seasonally, with higher values in spring and summer. The mean blood lead level was 44.4 microgram lead per liter blood, which is considered low. Only 2% of the children showed a slightly higher blood lead level than the American safety standard. To obtain robust measures of cognitive aspects, we performed a factor analysis. The results showed that blood lead level did not influence any of the cognitive factors. Therefore this study, despite being designed to maximize the chance of finding an effect in asymptomatic children, does not support a relationship between lead at very low doses (below 100 micogram/liter blood) and cognition in schoolchildren
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