Tuesday, July 11, 2017

New Study Links Lead Exposure to School Suspensions

A report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds
that lead exposure is linked to behavioral problems, school suspensions.

A report by The American Prospect Magazine has found that children with high blood-lead levels are more likely to be suspended from school. While the link between lead exposure and behavioral disorders is known, the report emphasizes the multifaceted issue of lead poisoning in poorer communities.

In the report, researchers found evidence linking lead exposure in children to an increased chance of school suspension and juvenile detention. The study used data from blood-lead levels and detention data for 120,000 children. Researchers found that a one unit increase in lead exposure increased suspensions issued to children by at least 6% and detentions by at least 27%.

An important feature of the report is that researchers can now name lead poisoning as a source of school discipline issues. Prior to the report, researchers were aware of a possible link but couldn't conclude if it was lead poisoning or poverty causing school discipline issues.

“What we find is that there’s a pretty robust relationship between early childhood lead levels as measured by the blood tests and future disciplinary infractions,” Anna Aizer, contributing researcher, said in a recent press conference.

Although the use of lead is highly regulated in the United States, many children are still exposed to dangerous levels of lead. State to state, progress in reducing lead poisoning in children has been unbalanced, especially in poor urban areas without the means to renovate old housing stock. Lead-based paint can flake away in old homes and be ingested or inhaled. Lead dust from construction or industrial waste can accumulate in soil. Toxic run-off can accumulate in drinking water, as lead particles from deteriorating lead water pipes.

As a result, disadvantaged children - a group already more likely to live in older housing stock - are disproportionately affected by lead poisoning, and it leads to disproportionate instances of school behavioral problems. For disadvantaged children, this can reduce their access to education and put them on track to juvenile detention.

This report comes right after another paper Aizer and other researchers co-published last year. In a similar study, they found that reducing children's blood-lead levels had significant positive effects on school performance.

"A one unit decrease in blood-lead levels reduces the probability of being substantially below proficient in reading by 3.1 percentage points,” the report stated.

In 2014, the Justice Policy Institute reported that the cost of juvenile detention reached nearly $150,000 per year state to state.

“Governments need to think about this. Crime is just an incredibly expensive outcome for a state, and lead mitigation is so much cheaper relative to that,” Anna Aizer said.

Certainly, reviewing the impact that lead exposure has on children is imperative for our nation's future. With more breakthroughs in lead poisoning research, it's evident that controlling lead exposure should be priority for all.

To read the original report, click here. To learn more about lead paint certification and how you can join this critical industry, visit Zack Academy's lead homepage.

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