Children in households with firearms have higher lead levels

Child lead levels in the U.S. tied to firearm exposure (2012-2018).


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A study from Brown University in Providence, R.I., has discovered that children’s lead exposure, usually from paint and water, could also come from firearms at home. Researchers found that owning guns is linked to higher lead levels in children’s blood across 44 states, even after considering other familiar sources of lead exposure.

The lead author of the study published in the Journal of Paediatrics, Christian Hoover, a Ph.D. candidate in epidemiology at Brown’s School of Public Health, stated, “Lead exposure from firearms is far less explored than from recognized sources like water or lead-based paint. But it might be just as harmful to kids’ health.

Hoover voiced concern about the absence of oversight and safeguards against lead exposure from weapons, which puts kids at serious risk. According to the study, there is almost as much of a connection between using a gun and high lead levels as with lead-based paint. Children’s blood lead levels have mostly stayed the same over time despite efforts to limit exposure to lead in paint and water.

Lead exposure from firearms occurs when a person fires a gun using lead-based primer and ammunition, which is widespread in the United States. Lead dust enters clothing, personal belongings, and surfaces such as cars and carpets. Youngsters are more vulnerable because of their hand-to-mouth habits.

Hoover of the Harvard Injury Control Research Centre discovered a link between youngsters in Massachusetts who had high lead levels and weapons. Forty-four states that report blood lead levels in children are included in this study.

Since there isn’t a national record on firearm ownership, the researchers estimated rates using a technique developed by the RAND Corporation. This approach aggregates information from background checks, hunting licenses, magazine subscriptions, and firearm suicides.

They contrasted this information with CDC reports from 2012 to 2018 regarding blood lead levels in young children. According to the study, there was a roughly 30% increase in children’s incidences of increased blood lead levels for every 10% increase in the number of homes with guns.

Lead exposure in childhood can cause behavioral problems, reduced cognitive function, and stunted growth. Joseph Braun from Brown University asserts that kids have no acceptable exposure to lead.

In spite of efforts to lower exposure, many American youngsters remain impacted. To safeguard children’s health, it’s critical to identify additional lead sources, such as weapons. Alan Fossa was another Brown postdoctoral researcher who contributed to the project.

According to the study, children with higher lead levels are associated with handgun ownership. It emphasizes the importance of conducting additional studies and taking particular steps to lower this danger and protect kids.

Journal reference:

  1. Christian Hoover, Alan Fossa, et al., Firearm-related Lead Exposure and Child Lead Levels in the United States, 2012-2018. The Journal of Pediatrics. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2024.113975.