Increasing evidence suggests that 10 microg/dL, the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention screening guideline for children's blood lead level, should not be interpreted as a level at which adverse effects do not occur. Using data from a prospective study conducted in Mexico City, Mexico, we evaluated the dose-effect relationship between blood lead levels and neurodevelopment at 12 and 24 months of age.
The study population consisted of 294 children whose blood lead levels at both 12 and 24 months of age were < 10 microg/dL; blood lead levels were measured by graphite furnace atomic absorption spectroscopy; Bayley Scales of Infant Development II were administered at these ages. The outcomes of interest were the Mental Development Index and the Psychomotor Development Index.
Adjusting for covariates, children's blood lead levels at 24 months were significantly associated, in an inverse direction, with both Mental Development Index and Psychomotor Development Index scores at 24 months. Blood lead level at 12 months of age was not associated with concurrent Mental Development Index or Psychomotor Development Index scores or with Mental Development Index at 24 months of age but was significantly associated with Psychomotor Development Index score at 24 months. The relationships were not altered by adjustment for cord blood lead level or, in the analyses of 24-month Mental Development Index and Psychomotor Development Index scores, for the 12-month Mental Development Index and Psychomotor Development Index scores. For both Mental Development Index and Psychomotor Development Index at 24 months of age, the coefficients that were associated with concurrent blood lead level were significantly larger among children with blood lead levels < 10 microg/dL than it was among children with levels > 10 microg/dL.
These analyses indicate that children's neurodevelopment is inversely related to their blood lead levels even in the range of < 10 microg/dL. Our findings were consistent with a supralinear relationship between blood lead levels and neurobehavioral outcomes.