Response or Comment
Childhood lead poisoning remains an important public health issue in the United States, as well as elsewhere in the world. Although primary prevention is a major goal and it is critically important to keep children from getting poisoned, it is also important to explore ways to reduce the neurotoxic effects of lead in those children already poisoned. Whether lead-induced neurotoxicity and its related adverse outcomes are viewed as “permanent” or “persistent” may influence the way in which potential remediation efforts are considered for improving outcomes from childhood lead poisoning.
The objective of this commentary was to discuss the ideas of permanence and persistence in relation to the direct neurotoxic effects of lead on the brain and the resulting adverse outcomes from these effects. Recent new insights regarding potential mitigation of lead-induced neurotoxic effects on brain and behavior are considered along with clinical information on neurorehabilitation to suggest potential strategies for improving cognitive/behavioral outcomes in lead-poisoned children.
The distinction between permanent and persistent in regard to lead-induced neurotoxicity and its resulting outcomes may have broad implications for public health policies in response to the problem of childhood lead exposure. The term permanent implies that the damage is irreversible with little chance of improvement. However, there is evidence that at least some of the adverse cognitive/behavioral outcomes from lead exposure are persistent rather than permanent and potentially amenable, under the appropriate circumstances, to some level of mitigation. This author recommends that clinical, interventional research efforts be devoted to exploring optimal neurorehabilitative and enrichment conditions to stimulate plasticity and enhance functioning to determine the extent to which promising results from preclinical studies of lead-induced brain damage and the mitigation of these effects can be successfully translated to humans.
Schneider, Jay S., "Neurotoxicity and Outcomes from Developmental Lead Exposure: Persistent or Permanent?" (2023). Department of Pathology, Anatomy, and Cell Biology Faculty Papers. Paper 405.