Study finds link between childhood lead exposure and mental illness

Exposure to lead at a young age may lead to mental illness, according to a new study.

The study, which followed 579 people in New Zealand for more than 30 years starting from age 3, found an association between exposure to lead and mental illness including phobia, depression, mania, and schizophrenia.

Children can be exposed to lead through paint and dust in old homes and sometimes from local water supplies. Lead exposure has previously been linked with decreased IQ, behavioral problems, and other health issues.

Mary Jean Brown, adjunct assistant professor of social and behavioral sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and former chief of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch, said in a January 23, 2019 Earther article that she is not surprised by the new findings. Brown, who was not involved with the study, said that she welcomes the exploration of potential links between lead exposure and mental illness as “a new area of research and another nail in the coffin of lead exposure.”

Read the Earther article: Childhood Lead Exposure May Increase Risk of Mental Illness, Study Suggests

Learn more

Report: Lead levels too high in many U.S. schools (Harvard Chan School news)

The real foe in childhood lead poisoning: lead paint in housing (Harvard Chan School news)