Abstract

Objectives. To examine whether a previously reported association between airborne lead exposure and children’s cognitive function replicates across a geographically diverse sample of the United States. Methods. Residential addresses of children (< 5 years) were spatially joined to the Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators model of relative airborne lead toxicity. Cognitive outcomes for children younger than 8 years were available for 1629 children with IQ data and 1476 with measures of executive function (EF; inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility). We used generalized linear models using generalized estimating equations to examine the associations of lead, scaled by interquartile range (IQR), accounting for individual- and area-level confounders. Results. An IQR increase in airborne lead was associated with a 0.74-point lower mean IQ score (b 5 20.74; 95% confidence interval 5 21.00, 20.48). The association between lead and EF was nonlinear and was modeled with a knot at the 97.5th percentile of lead in our sample. Lead was significantly associated with lower mean inhibitory control but not with cognitive flexibility. This effect was stronger among males for both IQ and inhibitory control. Conclusions. Early-life exposure to airborne lead is associated with lower cognitive functioning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-318
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Public Health
Volume114
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2024

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