Over the last few decades, it has been proven that not only is lead exposure dangerous, but it can have long term and irreversible effects on developing children both mentally and physically. While this is well known among the public, a new study has recently come to light that is not only shocking, but puts more blame on the toxic metal. After years of research, a correlation between Alzheimer’s disease and lead exposure has been made.

One study in particular, lasting 23 long years, has found a direct correlation between childhood lead exposure and Alzheimer’s disease. During the study, macaques (monkeys) were given a lead-rich formula as infants. Years later, it was discovered that these monkeys developed tangles of a key brain protein (tau) which is directly linked to Alzheimer’s disease. After analyzing the monkeys that consumed the lead-filled formula, researchers found they had three times more irregular tau protein in their frontal cortex than a normal monkey. This suggests that early lead exposure reprogrammed the monkey’s DNA.

While this experiment has a lot of moving parts, and is only one study showing correlation, there is no denying the relationship between lead exposure and dementia. Replicating this study to show similar results would be taxing, as it took 23 years to reach this conclusion. Analyzing the relationship between human lead exposure and Alzheimer’s disease is also difficult, as dementia-specific effects may not reveal themselves until that person reaches 70 years old.

As research surrounding lead paint progresses, it becomes more obvious that lead exposure is a greater issue than anyone imagined. Preventing this exposure will not only protect our youth, but potentially our elders as well.