Deficits in psychologic and classroom performance of children with elevated dentine lead levels

N Engl J Med. 1979 Mar 29;300(13):689-95. doi: 10.1056/NEJM197903293001301.


To measure the neuropsychologic effects of unidentified childhood exposure to lead, the performance of 58 children with high and 100 with low dentine lead levels was compared. Children with lead levels scored significantly less well on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (Revised) than those with low lead levels. This difference was also apparent on verbal subtests, on three other measures of auditory or speech processing and on a measure of attention. Analysis of variance showed that none of these differences could be explained by any of the 39 other variables studied. Also evaluated by a teachers' questionnaire was the classroom behavior of all children (2146 in number) whose teeth were analyzed. The frequency of non-adaptive classroom behavior increased in a dose-related fashion to dentine lead level. Lead exposure, at doses below those producing symptoms severe enough to be diagnosed clinically, appears to be associated with neuropsychologic deficits that may interfere with classroom performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / chemically induced
  • Child Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Language Tests
  • Lead / analysis*
  • Lead Poisoning / metabolism
  • Lead Poisoning / psychology*
  • Male
  • Motor Skills
  • Psychological Tests*
  • Reaction Time
  • Tooth / blood supply*


  • Lead