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1.28.2008 7:25 AM

Alzheimer's or Long-Ago Lead Poisoning?

New Fears for Parents of Kids Exposed to "Toxic Toys"

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Alzheimer lead link
Photo: Joseph Jean Rolland Dubé / Istock/Istock

By Deborah Barrow

News this morning about the long-term dangers of lead exposure and its suspected role in contributing to the onset of dementia among older people gives parents of young children more reason for concern about the scandal of American manufacturers selling toxic, lead-laced toys from China.

Dr. Brian Schwartz is on the faculty of the prestigious Johns Hopkins University's Environmental Health Sciences. He is conducting studies on the long-term effects of such environmental toxins as lead, pesticides and mercury.

According to reports this morning, the so-called "natural" decline in brain function among the elderly may in fact be the result of long-ago exposure to lead. In an interview with the AP, Dr. Schwartz relates, "We're trying to offer a caution that a portion of what has been called normal aging might in fact be due to ubiquitous environmental exposures like lead."

Schwartz's studies of populations from Baltimore to Korea provide important clues to the relationships between brain function and long-ago lead exposure.

Researchers are beginning to study the long-term effects of several environmental toxins in addition to lead. Recent studies have linked exposure to pesticides to onset of Parkinson's Disease in later life.

For more on Dr. Schwartz's work at Johns Hopkins, go here.

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