Inna Hughes, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Hughes, is studying a potential link between chronic, low-level lead exposure and metabolic syndrome. While acute lead intoxication has become much more rare due to an increased public health awareness and lead abatement legislation, chronic, low-level lead toxicity continues to be a significant health issue with increasing evidence for the effect of lead on multiple aspects of human health and development. Studies suggest that low level lead exposure may be associated with the development of metabolic syndrome in young people, a finding with significant implications for health care costs and public health prevention. Lead exposure has been previously linked to individual cardiovascular risk factors included in the metabolic syndrome, including changes in cholesterol, increased BMI and hypertension. Some of these may be associated with direct effects of lead on endothelial reactivity or renal function. New studies in children and experimental animals, however, suggest a critical role for alterations in HPA axis function. This project will examine these associations using multiple regression analyses of data from a national representative survey, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) database. In addition, a chart review of pediatric patients in the Rochester area will help to create a cohort of children who have been lead exposed to follow their growth and development parameters as compared with age matched controls. To date, the biometric data of 500 children has been collected and is undergoing review and analysis. The proposed studies represent an extension of current studies in that they will use more specific and more inclusive measures of metabolic syndrome and will examine the effects of low-level lead exposure on a population much younger than that commonly studied.