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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 07/08/04
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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Study Shows Treatment of Lead-Poisoned Children Ineffective

A study of the treatment of lead-poisoned children suggests that prevention is far more effective than cure.

Researchers at the UC Medical Center and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center examined the effect of chelation therapy, a standard technique for "washing" lead out of the blood, on the neurophysiological and behavioral development of school-age children who have been exposed to lead.

"We hoped to demonstrate that the effects of early exposure to lead could be minimized or eliminated by administration of this drug," says Kim Dietrich, PhD, a professor in UC College of Medicine's Department of Environmental Health. "Instead, the study showed that neurological damage from lead poisoning is irreversible,"

Reported in the July 1 issue of the journal Pediatrics, the study, "emphasizes that lead poisoning must be prevented in the first place," Dr. Dietrich says. "Instead of reacting to journalistic hyperbole about historic skeet-shooting range sites that have been paved over by new suburbs, we need to make sure that children in our inner cities, living in older homes that cause actual lead poisoning, are adequately protected.

"We shouldn't be using children as guinea pigs," says Dr. Dietrich. "We should double our efforts to inspect and clean up target areas in the interiors of our cities, where we have found documented cases of lead-poisoned children.  If we wait until the children's blood shows high levels of lead, the damage is already done."

The first to examine children treated with a drug designed specifically to reduce lead-levels in the blood and other organs, the Cincinnati study was part of a collaboration with Harvard University, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the Kennedy Krieger Institute, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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