Normal auditory brainstem and cochlear function in extreme pediatric plumbism

S. Allen Counter, Leo H. Buchanan, Fernando Ortega, Göran Laurell

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Lead (Pb) intoxication in children has been associated with encephalopathy, sensory and cognitive impairments. We investigated the prevalence and neuro-sensory effects of Pb exposure in children living in Andean villages of Ecuador with high Pb contamination from discarded automobile batteries used in the local ceramics glazing industry. Venous blood samples were collected from 107 children in the Pb glazing area and from 39 children living in a geographically distant area with no known Pb contamination and measured for blood lead (PbB) levels. Auditory brainstem responses (ABR) and audiological/otological tests were conducted on children in the Pb-Glazing Group. The median PbB level for children in the Pb-Glazing Group was 40.0 μg per dl (range: 6.2-128.2 μg per dl) and for the non Pb- Glazing Group 6.0 μg per dl (1.9-18.0 μg per dl). The differences in PbB levels for children in the study and control areas were statistically significant (t-test, P<0.0001). ABR tests on the Pb-Glazing Group indicated normal wave latencies and neural transmission times, and no statistical correlation between PbB level and interpeak latencies. Audiological tests showed normal cochlear function and no statistical relation between auditory thresholds and PbB level. Contrary to prevailing assumptions, elevated PbB levels in children do not invariably impair auditory brainstem neural transmission or sensory-neural cochlear function, both of which have been implicated as significant contributors to the neurodevelopmental disabilities associated with childhood plumbism.

Idioma originalInglés
Páginas (desde-hasta)85-92
Número de páginas8
PublicaciónJournal of the Neurological Sciences
EstadoPublicada - 6 nov. 1997


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