‘Risk factor for developing schizophrenia’ in a metal worker
A survey of workers at a steel mill in Wisconsin shows an alarming link between exposure to lead and an increased risk of developing schizophrenia.
The results, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, are consistent with previous studies linking lead exposure to schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses.
The study, which was led by Dr. Jody C. Gannon, professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that nearly two-thirds of workers who were tested for lead were exposed to the metal before they were hired.
The lead in the sample is a neurotoxin known as cadmium, which has been linked to neurodevelopmental problems.
A 2013 report in the journal Science found that the same study found that exposure to cadmial lead could cause symptoms in children of children with ADHD and other mental health problems.
“We know from studies that people with lead poisoning have lower IQs, poorer performance in school, and lower rates of cognitive development,” said Gannon.
“So it’s very likely that lead exposure will have a detrimental impact on a child’s brain, even before they reach puberty.”
The lead study involved nearly 100 workers from a small Wisconsin steel mill.
The researchers tested them for the neurotoxin cadmionine, an amino acid found in a range of other metals, including zinc, copper, iron, manganese and copper.
Those who had high levels of cadmious exposure were also more likely to develop schizophrenia.
Gannett’s lead study was a follow-up to the earlier study, but the lead researchers were surprised to find a connection between cadmiodenal exposure and the development of schizophrenia.
Lead in food The lead lead study looked at a sample of workers from one of the largest food processing plants in the United States, which uses some of the highest levels of lead in food in the country.
The facility uses a process called distillation, where chemicals are poured into a furnace to turn steel into steel products.
The process produces a lot of lead, and because lead can leach into water, it’s found in drinking water and in some consumer products.
However, the lead in Gannon’s study was not concentrated in the raw steel, but in the food that workers were exposed too.
“These workers are exposed to a lot more lead than you would expect because they’re working in the mill,” said study lead author Dr. Andrew L. Tew, a toxicologist at the university.
“It’s a lot worse than you might expect.”
A person who has high levels in food and who is also highly exposed to cadme-ionine is likely to have an increased susceptibility to schizophrenia, according to the study.
However the lead exposure could be due to more than just lead.
Workers who were exposed while they were on call at work also had elevated levels of the neurotoxic substance cadmianidin, which is found in many products such as paint and vinyl.
The increase in lead exposure was also linked to the workers’ mental health.
“If we’re talking about a person who’s in the workforce for a long period of time and they’ve been exposed to high levels for a very long period, that’s a risk factor for schizophrenia,” said Dr. William J. Murnane, professor at the Yale School of Medicine and an expert on schizophrenia.
“In other words, if you have a person in the workplace who’s been exposed for years, it would seem like they’re going to have a genetic predisposition to develop this mental illness.”
Gannon said the findings raise a few questions.
“Is this really the result of a specific exposure that’s occurred in one worker, or is it just a trend?” he said.
“What do you do about the people who are coming in who are not necessarily at risk, but are more likely susceptible to develop psychosis?”
Murnana also said the study could provide some clues to the possible link between lead and schizophrenia.
However there are other possible explanations.
GANNET’S RULE OF THOUGHT: How do we know if a person is suffering from schizophrenia?
It’s not enough to say, ‘Well, it looks like he’s not psychotic.’
You need to know if there is a risk of schizophrenia among the population at large, said Murnanes co-author Dr. Jennifer H. Mays.
“This study is a good first step, but we need more research.”
The study authors said that in addition to their study, they will be conducting more studies to better understand the potential impact of cadmandine exposure on schizophrenia and mental health outcomes.
In addition to Murnaney, the study authors include: Dr. Richard W. Schaffer, professor, University of California, San Diego School of Public Health; Dr. Rebecca L. Wessel, director, Center for the Study of Environmental Neurobiology and Neurodevelopmental Disorders; Drs.
David J. G. Johnson, professor and director, Department of Health, Psychiatry,