A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal concludes that up to 90% of people born between 1951 and 1980 have been exposed to dangerous levels of lead in early childhood.

Method: The study used data from the U.S. census lead-in-gas consumption statistics, and a national survey of lead exposure from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • During the 1970s and ’80s, the CDC conducted studies of children from ages 1 to 5, taking blood samples as part of the protocol.
  • These blood samples showed that children from this time contained high levels of lead in their bloodstream, levels that the CDC determined to be harmful, according to the journal.

How were so many people exposed to lead? The study predicts that lead exposure came from the era of leaded gasoline in the 1960s to the early ’80s.

  • In the past, lead has been found in paint, soil, water and other things used in day-to-day life. Although the amount of lead in our products has decreased dramatically over time, the danger is still there, the study reported.

What are the dangers of lead exposure? The study found that over 170 million estimated Americans alive today have been exposed to harmful amounts of lead in early childhood.

  • Lead has been linked to loss of cognitive ability. The average person lost 2.6 IQ points after lead exposure, according to the study. This amounts to a total of 824,097,6 90 IQ points lost in Americans as of 2015.
  • The CDC reports that exposure to lead can cause anemia, kidney and brain damage.
  • Prolonged lead exposure has also been linked to abdominal pain, constipation, depression, irritability, nausea and many other symptoms, even death.