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Could early exposure to lead cause osteoporosis and falls?

UC Academic Health Center

Researchers at UC's College of Medicine have landed a $2.35 million grant to study lead exposure in African American women.

Amit Battacharya and Kim Dietrich started studying the long-term effects of pre-natal lead exposure 35 years ago. Their work and other similar studies have largely focused on neurological issues. Now study participants are approaching bone maturation age and Battacharya says women, especially African American women who are at higher risk, face a new problem.

"It's well established by other researchers, during the change in the hormonal status because of pregnancy and menopause, the lead then starts to come out of the bone and reenters the blood circulation and can become a serious danger for the rest of the body," says Battacharya.

Battacharya and Dietrich hypothesize African American women with early lead exposure may be predisposed to early osteoporosis and falls.

“African-Americans are historically more likely to live in inner cities than whites, and lower-income, inner-city children remain particularly vulnerable to lead exposure,” says Dietrich.

The Cincinnati Lead Study has followed nearly 400 people born in high-risk parts of town between 1979 and 1984. About 120 women from the study are participating.

UC's College of Medicine notes the Cincinnati Lead Study, "is the longest-running prospective study of the effects of lead on health and development in the world."