OBJECTIVE. Lead exposure in children has been associated with both global and specific cognitive deficits. Although chelation therapy is advised for children with blood lead concentrations of >44 μg/dL, treatment options for children with lower blood lead values are limited. Because lead absorption is related to children's nutritional status, micronutrient supplements may be 1 strategy for combating low-level, chronic lead exposure. This study was designed to test the efficacy of iron and zinc supplementation for lowering blood lead concentrations and improving cognitive performance in schoolchildren who live in a lead-contaminated city. METHODS. This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled field trial was conducted in public elementary schools in Torreón, an industrialized city in northern Mexico. A metal foundry, located close to the city center and within 3.5 km of 9 schools, was the main source of lead exposure. A total of 602 children who were aged 6 to 8 years and regularly attending first grade in the study schools were enrolled. Children were given 30 mg of iron, 30 mg of zinc, both, or a placebo daily for 6 months. A total of 527 completed the treatment, and 515 were available for long-term follow-up, after another 6 months without supplementation. Eleven cognitive tests of memory, attention, visual-spatial abilities, and learning were administered at baseline and each follow-up. RESULTS. There were no consistent or lasting differences in cognitive performance among treatment groups. CONCLUSIONS. Daily supplementation with iron and/or zinc may be of limited usefulness for improving cognition in lead-exposed schoolchildren. However, these treatments may be effective in settings with higher prevalence of nutritional deficiencies or in younger children.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health