The Port Pirie Cohort Study is an ongoing prospective study of the relationship between exposure to environmental lead within a lead smelter community, and neuropsychological development in early childhood. Over 600 children, originally recruited during antenatal life, underwent serial blood lead estimations up to two years of age. Systematic interview information was collected on a range of variables, and formal developmental assessment (Bayley Scales of Infant Development) was carried out at 24 months of age. Blood lead concentrations measured antenatally (maternal), at delivery (maternal and umbilical cord) and postnatally at 6, 15 and 24 months were negatively correlated (p less than 0.05) with mental development at 24 months of age. Geometric mean blood lead concentrations (microgram/dl) were 14.3, 20.8 and 21.2 at 6, 15 and 24 months of age respectively. When multiple covariates, including maternal IQ, were controlled for in multiple regression analysis, a statistically significant (p less than 0.01) inverse association was observed between blood lead concentration (PbB) measured at 6 months of age and mental development at 2 years of age. No such association was evident for psychomotor development. When the quality of the home environment (HOME Score) was added to the multiple regression model, the inverse association between blood lead concentration at 6 months of age and mental development at 2 years persisted, albeit less strongly (p = 0.07). From this analysis, it is estimated that a child with with PbB of 30 micrograms/dl at age 6 months will have a deficit of 3.3 points (approximately 3%) on the Bayley Mental Development Scale relative to a child with PbB of 10 micrograms/dl.
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