Environmental lead exposure and cognitive function in community-dwelling older adults.Neurology. 2006 Nov 14; 67(9):1556-62.Neur
To determine if long-term exposure to high levels of lead in the environment is associated with decrements in cognitive ability in older Americans.
We completed a cross-sectional analysis using multiple linear regression to evaluate associations of recent (in blood) and cumulative (in tibia) lead dose with cognitive function in 991 sociodemographically diverse, community-dwelling adults, aged 50 to 70 years, randomly selected from 65 contiguous neighborhoods in Baltimore, MD. Tibia lead was measured with (109)Cd induced K-shell X-ray fluorescence. Seven summary measures of cognitive function were created based on standard tests in these domains: language, processing speed, eye-hand coordination, executive functioning, verbal memory and learning, visual memory, and visuoconstruction.
The mean (SD) blood lead level was 3.5 (2.2) microg/dL and tibia lead level was 18.7 (11.2) microg/g. Higher tibia lead levels were consistently associated with worse cognitive function in all seven domains after adjusting for age, sex, APOE-epsilon4, and testing technician (six domains p <or= 0.01, one domain p <or= 0.05). Blood lead was not associated with any cognitive domain. Associations with tibia lead were attenuated after adjustment for years of education, wealth, and race/ethnicity.
Independent of recent lead dose, retained cumulative dose resulting from previous environmental exposures may have persistent effects on cognitive function. A portion of age-related decrements in cognitive function in this population may be associated with earlier lead exposure.