Exposure to lead and specific attentional problems in schoolchildren.
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A pilot study was carried out to investigate the relationship between exposure to lead and attention in children. The participants were 43 boys, 8 to 12 years of age, attending special schools for children with educational and/or learning problems (so called LOM schools). Children with probable causes of attentional or memory problems other than lead contamination were excluded from the study. Various aspects of attention were measured using neuropsychological tests. As an assessment of body lead burden, lead concentration in the boys' hair was measured by means of the Synchrotron Radiation-Induced X-ray Fluorescente technique (SXRF). Information was collected about variables that possibly could influence attention and/or body lead burden (confounding factors). A multiple regression analysis was used to determine the contribution of lead to variance in performance, after correction for confounding factors. The results showed that children with relatively high concentrations of lead in their hair reacted significantly slower in a simple reaction-time task than did children with relatively low concentrations of lead in their hair. In addition, the former were significantly less flexible in changing their focus of attention, even after correction for the influence of their delayed reaction time.