U of M Study: Lead Exposure Directly Connected to Lower DPS Performance

In a recent study to be published in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the lead Detroit Public Schools (DPS) students ingested directly effected their academic performance on State standardized tests.

UM study lead poisoning

Credit Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The study took Blood Lead Level (BLL) data from the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion, and correlated BLL’s to test scores on the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) for when those students tested for lead as young children took the MEAP as third, fifth, and eighth graders.

Not only did the study show severe academic impairment for students with childhood Elevated Blood Lead Levels (EBLs) as determined by current federal standards, it showed that students with lower BLLs also showed decreased academic performance.

Students with blood levels of 2-5 micrograms/decileter (ug/dl), a level currently not deemed dangerous, had a 33% higher likelihood of a poor MEAP performance.  Students whose BLLs were over 5 ug/dl as children had a 50% higher likelihood of doing poorly on the MEAP.  Currently, the federal government deems levels of 10 ug/dl and above to be dangerous, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests a level of 5 ug/dl should be the poisoning threshold.

The study connects the ubiquitous presence of lead in DPS students to the district’s equally stark academic failings.  Out of 39,199 DPS students tested for lead as children between 1990 and 2008, 23 did not have lead in their bodies.  In results released in February 2013, 14.8% of DPS students passed the MEAP’s math portion.

Information used in the previous summary came from the following sources:

Read the University of Michigan’s press release for the study HERE.

Read the Michigan Radio Article HERE.

Read the Detroit Free Press Article HERE.

Read the study itself HERE.

Graphic: Interactive map shows lead levels in Detroit neighborhoods over time.

Data: Lead poisoning by Detroit Public School

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