Teething on Lead Toys and the Rise of ADHD

Lead causes ADHD.  This information is not new.  We have known for a very long time about the neurotoxin effects of lead exposure,   I was able to find a 1974 study which cited lead exposure as a cause of hyperactivity.  What is new is, it now appears, that lead exposure is not safe at what was once considered 'safe' levels. Children with ADHD symptoms have only slightly higher levels of lead than children with no symptoms.  A little lead goes a LONG way.

Several weeks ago I attended a panel discussion at my children's school.  The topic of the panel was "The Classroom in 2010. What has changed?"  The teachers leading the panel mostly spoke of how technology was changing the classroom but at one point the headmaster said something that I found amazing.  He said that the 2010 classroom had many more children that learned differently, many more children on medication, and many more children that required behavioral interventions for hyperactivity or impulsiveness.  

He was questioned immediately by the scientist in the audience.   "Wasn't the increase he mentioned just secondary to greater knowledge and diagnosis of diseases such as ADHD, Asperger's Syndrome, and Tourette's Syndrome?”  The headmaster, who has been a teacher for over 40 years, stuck to his guns.  "No, he said, there is something, I think environmental, going on.  I am not sure what but there are more of these kids in the classroom today, than there were 15 years ago."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diagnosed cases of ADHD have increased by 3 percent yearly since 1997. ADHD now affects over 5 percent of the population and brand new research indicates that lead in the environment is part of the reason for these increases.  Two recently completed studies unequivocally link ADHD symptoms to lead levels.  What these new studies showed is that the increase in ADHD symptoms occurred at levels which were previously considered 'safe' and that the patients with ADHD symptoms had only slightly increased lead levels when they were compared to the control patients.

The government removed lead from gasoline and household paint a long time ago but this in no way eliminated our trace lead exposure.  It is the accumulation of trace lead exposure that may be causing increased ADHD symptoms. We are exposed to low levels of lead every day.  Lead can be found in drinking water, paints, jewelry, imported food, pottery, cosmetics, herbal and folk medicines, and most frightening in toys.  

There have been over 10 millions toys recalled in the last three years because of lead hazards.  The toys that have been recalled are not some rarely seen trinkets.  These toys are the toys with which all of our kids play extensively.  They include Fischer Price toys, Sesame Street toys, Cars toys, Thomas the Tank Engine toys, Barbie, Painting Easels, fishing polls, sunglasses and the lists go on and on.  This is a sample of just the 2009 list.


My kids have played with at least 3 of the toys on this 2009 list and I shudder to think of the number of times that my children chewed on their Thomas trains.  

Our best scientist and physicians have long proposed that lead levels of less than 10 mcg/dL are safe and that only levels higher than 10 mcg/dL can cause cognitive damage.  It turns out that they were wrong.  We now know that there are intellectual deficits at levels as low as 2.4 mcg/dL .  

Experts, when questioned regarding environmental causes for ADHD and the increasing number of diagnosed ADHD cases, have been saying for years that ADHD has not  increased.  They say that these kids, 20 years ago, were the class clowns, the kids that ended up in vocational school, the kids that ended up working on the family farm, etc.   They were wrong as well.  

Lead may be the culprit, or one of many environmental ADHD culprits.  The headmaster, as it turns out, was 'spot on'.  There is something environmental going on.  The question now is how do we protect our kids from an environmental contaminant that appears to be everywhere.

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