Proximity to sources of airborne lead is associated with reductions in Children's executive function in the first four years of life


Although policies to remove lead from gasoline have resulted in a substantial reduction in airborne lead, multiple industries are known to generate lead that is released in the air. The present study examines the extent to which residential proximity to a documented source of airborne lead is associated with intellectual and executive function in children. Data were available for n = 849 children from the Family Life Project. Geolocation for children's residences between birth and 36 months were referenced against the Environmental Protection Agency's Risk Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) database, which estimates exposure for each ½ mile grid in the contiguous United States. Instrumental variable models were employed to estimate causal associations between exposure and cognitive outcomes measured at 36, 48, and 60 months, using census-documented density of manufacturing employment as the instrument. Models of continuous lead dosage indicated small negative effects for both child IQ and executive function (EF). These results indicate that RSEI estimates of airborne lead exposure are meaningfully associated with decrements in cognitive development.