Friday, January 27, 2012

Pessimistically, lead may taint your outlook

Lead exposure over a lifetime may lead to a darker outlook, which can in turn increase risk of depression, reports a study on aging men.

The lead levels in the men were associated with increased pessimism even after the researchers considered the low socioeconomic factors that also are linked to pessimism. The results are published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Previous studies had shown that lead exposure may be associated with pessimism, but these studies were limited in their ability to consider important factors such as socioeconomic factors in childhood and adulthood.

Pessimism is a personality trait associated with a tendency to expect negative outcomes. Pessimists have a higher risk for depression and chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, than optimists. People of lower socioeconomic status (SES) – indicated by lower income, lower education level and lower rates of home ownership – are more likely to be pessimistic and to have higher lead exposures.

Lead mainly affects the nervous system and impacts intelligence, memory and behavior. This is particularly true in young children. It also is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

In the United States, lead exposures declined dramatically after lead was banned from paint and gasoline in the 1970s. However, higher lead exposures still plague people who live in poorer neighborhoods. Sources include peeling lead-based paint, contaminated soils and active and secondhand cigarette smoke. Read More