A study done by researchers at the University of Texas has found that children exposed to lead risk becoming neurotic and can grow up to unsuccessful.
Traces of lead are still in the environment
Lead was frequently used in the past to make various domestic products. However, the metal has been banned since the 1970s. Despite this, traces of lead can still be found in the atmosphere and water. This could lead to the accumulation of lead within the body. Children tend to have a higher build-up as they absorb it faster than adults.
Scientists have concluded that the accumulation of lead in children could lead to undesirable personality traits as they grow up. As a result, they have a more challenging time maintaining relationships and staying on track with their careers.
High neuroticism is associated with high lead accumulation
The researchers compiled data from about 1.5 million people. Some of them were from 37 European countries, and the rest were from the U.S. They used information from the Environmental Protection Agency to find out how much lead is in their locations. Afterwards, they asked participants to fill a personality questionnaire.
The researchers concluded that people raised in areas with high lead levels were less conscientious and agreeable than those who had grown up where lead levels were low. Study participants in their 20s and 30s were also more likely to be neurotic.
According to Dr Ted Schwaba, low neuroticism, agreeableness and conscientiousness are the factors that make people psychologically healthy. As people grow older, they become less neurotic and more agreeable and conscientious.
To further examine their theory, the researchers also looked into the 1970 Clean Air Act, which implemented limits on air pollution, and the impact it had on the population. They found that people born after the pollution levels fell tended to have better psychological health as they grew older. They found the same results in Europe.
This study is just the latest to show the harmful effects of lead. Although lead is no longer used, traces remain and could harm children, especially black children who are twice as likely to accumulate high lead levels.