In 1923, lead was first added to gasoline to help keep car engines healthy. However, automotive health came at the great expense of our own well-being.
A new study calculates that exposure to car exhaust from leaded gas during childhood stole a collective 824 million IQ points from more than 170 million Americans alive today, about half the population of the United States.
The findings, from Aaron Reuben, a PhD candidate in clinical psychology at Duke University, and colleagues at Florida State University, suggest that Americans born before 1996 may now be at greater risk for lead-related health problems, such as faster aging of the brain. Leaded gas for cars was banned in the U.S. in 1996, but the researchers say that anyone born before the end of that era, and especially those at the peak of its use in the 1960s and 1970s, had concerningly high lead exposures as children.
The team’s paper appeared the week of March 7 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Lead is neurotoxic and can erode brain cells after it enters the body. As such, there is no safe level of exposure at any point in life, health experts say. Young children are especially vulnerable to lead’s ability to impair brain development and lower cognitive ability. Unfortunately, no matter what age, our brains are ill-equipped for keeping it at bay.
Release date: 07 March 2022
Source: Duke University