A learning disability is one of the most common lead effects, and an outcome that could easily be prevented.
A school aged child's inability to rhyme words, learn the alphabet or notice when the words start with the same sound are early signs that the brain is not functioning as it should, says Dr. Sandra Cottingham, author and researcher of neurotoxins, especially lead. Seemingly minor, these learning challenges risk growing into frustration, low self esteem, defiant behavior, and may potentially compromise employment opportunities later in life. The impact of trace amounts of lead in utero or as a newborn may well play out to be profound.
Around week 12 of pregnancy, critical brain development gets underway. In the weeks ahead, the visual cortex will form. This is the part of the brain responsible for high-level visual processing. The temporal cortex will form as the center for auditory and visual processing as well as receptive language function. The frontal cortex begins construction and eventually will be the main center for high-level cognition, motor control and expressive language. While construction of these three areas of the cerebral cortex begins in early pregnancy, they will continue to evolve throughout childhood right into adolescence.
This is a time when lead affects a developing brain. Because a foundation of damage will not support what is constructed on top of it, avoiding toxic exposure during pregnancy is critical to ensure a child's capacity for learning later in life is not compromised.
Lead symptoms such as a learning disability, maybe the result of exposure to a range of common household lead sources. In a large number of cases, the lead contamination is actually lead paint poisoning. For lead paint testing on walls, trim, furniture and toys, LEAD TEST KITS are inexpensive and reliable. Expectant mothers should be especially aware that their own toxic exposure will result in lead poisoning effects to their unborn child.
But Dr. Cottingham warns that lead in paint - new or old, is just a single source. Cottingham believes that parents and parents-to-be have a tremendous responsibility to educate themselves about the myriad of lead sources in the products we buy, in the foods we eat, and in the practices we employ in the maintenance of our homes and yards. She offers as a resource for parents and families, LEAD BABIES, a book about how heavy metals are causing our children's learning and behavior problems, and what we can do about it. (astore.amazon.com/enolea-20/detail/1440188076)
No matter how much extra time, care and dutiful attention it takes to create a lead-free home environment, it pales in comparison to what it takes to manage and compensate for a learning disability for the entire course of one's life.
Joanna Cerazy M.Ed. and Sandra Cottingham Ph.D. are authors and researchers in the field of special education.
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