The week of July 20th marks Ohio Lead Awareness Week. Lead poisoning is the most common chronic poisoning and environmental illness in United States, and continues to be a major public health concern in Cleveland given its aging housing stock and industrial past. Childhood lead exposure can cause developmental and neurological delays; however, little is understood regarding the long-term effects of lead in relation to other outcomes.
One researcher, Leila Jackson, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, studies both the short- and long-term effects of lead on reproductive health.
Animal studies have shown that lead exposure in-utero and throughout life may result in altered hormone levels and decreased fertility. Jackson's research focuses on translating these findings into human populations. With grants funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Clinical and Translational Science Collaborative, she is examining the association between lead and early menopause. In addition to reducing a woman's reproductive years, an earlier age at menopause is also associated with an increased risk for osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers. Of further concern is that lead accumulated in bone over time is released into the blood during periods of increased bone loss which typically occurs during menopause.
As part of this research, Jackson has launched a pilot study of 120 premenopausal women in collaboration with William Todia, M.D. and the Clinical Research Unit at the MetroHealth Medical Center. Women participating in the Study of Aging and the Environment (STAGES) will have their blood and bone lead measured, as well as hormone levels and bone mineral density. Of particular interest are the bone lead levels which provide a marker of cumulative lead exposure over one's lifetime. The MetroHealth Medical Center is one of only a few locations across the United States that has the capacity to measure bone lead levels.
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