Race Studied As Factor in Blood Lead Disparities
Higher Levels Occur In Black Children
Avram Goldstein, Wash. Post, Mar. 7
Black children absorb lead more readily into their blood and bones than white children, according to a researcher who says the phenomenon may be a consequence of genetic or biological differences between the races and could be one reason why African Americans have consistently higher average lead levels.
Some lead experts, though, say the racial disparity is more likely the result of dietary iron and calcium deficiencies — common in minorities — that leave children more susceptible to lead in paint dust, drinking water or soil. And others say the difference reflects the disproportionate number of blacks who live in older urban homes and apartments, where dust from lead-based paint and soil contaminated long ago by pollution from leaded gasoline are prevalent.
In a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2002, Bruce P. Lanphear, a professor of pediatrics and environmental health at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, said that the racial disparity remained after he used a mathematical formula to adjust his data for social and economic differences between blacks and whites.
For two years, he tracked blood-lead levels of 249 babies in Rochester, N.Y., and found that on their second birthdays, the black children had blood-lead levels 62 percent higher than the white children. The black children had, on average, 3.13 micrograms more lead per deciliter of blood than the white toddlers, said Lanphear, who has published extensively on lead poisoning.
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