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Link between Levels of Lead in Blood and Delayed Puberty in Gilfs Described in Research

Release Date: 04/18/2003
Contact Information:


Suzanne Ackerman 202-564-7819/ackerman.suzanne@epa.gov


(04/18/03) In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, EPA researchers report that higher blood lead concentrations are associated with delayed puberty in girls and are different among race-ethnic groups. Researchers from EPA’s Office of Research and Development, Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, Westat Inc., analyzed data collected from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) from 1988 to 1994. Although these findings do not prove a causal relationship between elevated lead levels and delayed puberty, they suggest that even relatively low level lead exposure may influence growth and development in girls. In addition, delays in puberty were observed after adjusting for body size, suggesting that other mechanisms independent of altered growth could be involved, most likely alterations in endocrine function. EPA, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other federal agencies are committed to the goal of eliminating childhood lead poisoning by 2010, and have made substantial progress towards that goal. Blood lead levels in U.S. children age one to five years have decreased from 14.9 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dL) in the late 1970’s down to 2.2 ug/dL in recent years. Since the 1980’s, EPA and its federal partners have phased out lead in gasoline, reduced lead in drinking water, reduced lead in industrial air pollution, and banned or limited lead used in consumer products, including residential paint. In the near future, EPA plans new lead regulations for home renovation and remodeling work and bridges and structures. The research paper is available at: http://content.nejm.org/current.shtml. More information on protecting children from the dangers of lead is located at: http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/lead/index.html and the National Lead Information Center at: http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/lead/nlic.htm