Kids exposed to lead can become mean, cranky adults, UT study finds

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Sucking on a silvery chunk of lead as a kid can, decades later, cause you to be mean and self-centered.

While it might sound like a prophecy from a witch, this bizarre fact was the primary finding of a massive University of Texas study examining the effects of lead exposure on people’s personalities. 

The study, published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigated the impact of lead on more than 1.5 million people in the United States and Europe. It found that lead exposure was linked to being less agreeable and less considerate as well as other personality issues.

Though people today have much less exposure to lead than in the past, thousands are found to have unsafe blood lead levels every year in Texas. The study highlights just how pernicious this metal can be, even at low levels.  

Ted Schwaba, a postdoctoral fellow in the psychology department at the University of Texas, is the author of a study about how childhood lead exposure may adversely affect adult personalities.

Ted Schwaba, a postdoctoral researcher in the psychology department at UT, was the lead author of the study. He said that though we’ve known for decades that lead can stunt our cognition and even result in increases in crime, his study was the first to find that people all over the world experience personality problems as a direct result of exposure to lead. 



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