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Health & Medicine

A Unique Way to Examine Syracuse's Lead Poisoning Problem in Children


  Researchers at Syracuse University are halfway to their goal of testing 300 local kids to examine their LEAD levels. Most of us think lead testing in kids might have to do with old paints in homes which contain lead, however, Professor of Public Health, Dr. Brooks Gump explains why this test is much different.

Syracuse researchers are looking specifically at food sources with traces of lead.

“We’ve seen some juices at higher levels, or associated with higher levels of lead. Oatmeal, sugar, some of the things we’re eating are getting this lead exposure,” Dr. Gump said. “Our focus is not on the paint, not on the Flint, Michigan kind of high high levels. We’re saying that there’s effects at even the low, quote, normal levels.”  

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Dr. Brooks Gump

  Dr. Gump says an indicator that stress is present is a rise in blood pressure and that could mean it is connected to lead exposure. One part of the test kids are tested to see how they respond to an impossible task.

“There’s a star on the screen and they have to use the mouse to trace the star, but the mouse is set up such that when they move it right, the cursor moves left, so, it’s frustrating. A little bit frustrating. And it beeps when they go out of the star.”

The doctor explains that kids with higher levels of lead may get more agitated when that occurs. The lead study also looks at the heart. Gump says preliminary results show there’s differences in heart structure between blacks and whites.

“African American children have significantly larger, what’s called, left ventricular mass, so the pumping vessel chamber of the heart is enlarged already significantly more than the Anglo American children,” Gump said.

Credit John Smith/WAER News
Project coordinator Amy Dumas

  The second portion of the research includes a trip to a pediatric cardiologist.  Project Coordinator Amy Dumas says it is actually uncovered medical problems.

“I would say about five to six of our subject thus far have become regular patients. There’s been some issues, cardiovascular heart issues, that the pediatric cardiologist keeps them on as patients that would not have been uncovered otherwise.”

The test is open to children ages nine to ten in certain zip codes within Onondaga County and begins with a blood draw on a Saturday morning. More information is available at