|Childhood lead exposure is associated with lower cognitive functioning at older ages.
|Year of Publication
|Lee, H, Lee, MW, Warren, JRobert, Ferrie, J
|childhood lead exposure, cognitive functioning
The Flint, Michigan water crisis renewed concern about lead toxicity in drinking water. While lead in drinking water has been shown to negatively affect cognition among children, much less is known about its long-term consequences for late-life cognition. Using a nationally representative sample of U.S. older adults linked to historical administrative data from 1940, we find that older adults who lived as children in cities with lead pipes and acidic or alkaline water-the conditions required for lead to leach into drinking water-had worse cognitive functioning but not steeper cognitive decline. About a quarter of the association between lead and late-life cognition was accounted for by educational attainment. Within the next 10 years, American children exposed to high levels of lead during the 1970s will enter older ages. Our evidence highlights the need for stronger actions to identify interventions to mitigate long-term damage among people at high risk.