New study says even small amounts of lead can lead to behavioral issues

For years, health experts and the Center for Disease Control have warned about the risks associated with lead poisoning in kids, which can include damage to the brain and nervous system. 

Now, new research suggests that even a small amount of lead in the blood can lead to behavior problems.

In older homes, the danger could be in the water, or on the ceiling and walls. Despite awareness efforts and community outreach-- in this case by a non-profit group in Trenton, NJ-- nationwide, lead remains a concern. 

“That's the really tragic thing about lead is that once a child is lead poisoned, then they have some permanent deficits,” Janet Currie says. 

Currie studied the blood lead levels of 120 thousand children in Rhode Island, a state with high rates of lead testing for young children. 

Using school records, the researchers wanted to see if a child's blood lead level in the preschool years predicted whether they later had problems in school. They found a relationship between even low levels of lead and future academic progress.

"They're more likely to have disciplinary problems in school. It was very striking that for every microgram of lead additional, you would see a step up in the level of problems,” said Currie. 

Currie says if your home was built before 1978, it likely has lead-based paint. Any peeling paint should be removed by a contractor and covered with fresh paint.  Commercially-available filters can remove lead particles from tap water. 

If you live in an older home, you also shouldn’t plant your vegetables against the house. There might be lead in the soil. Instead, build a raised bed, with fresh soil. 

Currie says the research findings affirm that any level of lead in a child's blood is reason for concern. She also says there needs to be a more effective mechanism in place for blood lead screening, although most states don't enforce mandatory screening for all kids.

FOX 46 reported on this story from Charlotte, N.C.