Elevated lead levels in relation to low serum neuropeptide Y and adverse behavioral effects in preschool children with e-waste exposure

Zeng X, Xu C, Xu X, Zhang Y, Huang Y, Huo X. Elevated lead levels in relation to low serum neuropeptide Y and adverse behavioral effects in preschool children with e-waste exposure. Chemosphere. 2020 Dec 21;269:129380. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2020.129380. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33383249.

Abstract

As a neurotoxicant, lead (Pb) primarily affects central nervous system, and particularly impacts developing brain. This study explores the associations of blood Pb level and children’s behavioral health. A total of 213 preschool children aged 3-7 years old were recruited from Guiyu (the e-waste-exposed area) and Haojiang (the reference area). The behavioral health of children was assessed using the ‘behavioral symptoms’ subscale of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Results showed that there was a significant difference in percent of children categorized as “at risk” between Guiyu (48.2%) and Haojiang (13.9%) (p < 0.001). The blood Pb level of children in Guiyu was significantly higher than those in Haojiang (median: 5.19 μg/dL vs. 3.42 μg/dL, p < 0.001). The serum Neuropeptide Y (NPY) was significantly lower in Guiyu children than those in Haojiang. Spearman correlation analyses demonstrated that blood Pb levels was negatively correlated with NPY (rs = -0.25, p < 0.001), but positively correlated with behavioral symptom scores; while serum NPY levels were negatively associated with behavioral symptom scores. Behavioral symptom scores were higher in children with blood Pb level ≥5.00 μg/dL (high) than those with blood Pb level < 5.00 μg/dL (low). After adjusting for confounding factors, children with lower NPY levels were at higher risk of having behavioral difficulties. In conclusion, Pb exposure in e-waste-exposed areas may lead to decrease in serum NPY and increase in the risk of children’s behavioral problems. In addition, NPY may mediate the association between Pb exposure and behavioral difficulties.

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