Thursday, January 31, 2008
The leaden brain
A newspaper article from last Sunday at least partially answered a question I've had for several years: If lead is bad for the human brain, then what about all of lead in gasoline that we were exposed to for many years? It wasn't until 30 years ago or so that lead disappeared from fuel, but until then we were all exposed in the form of exhaust and air pollution.
This article points out that studies show that yes, we have been affected; that lead speeds up mental decline, and advances our age by up to five years. Which means even if my body isn't chronologically eligible for retirement, my brain is.
Seriously, though, if you extrapolate on this article, how many of the people in nursing homes right now are there at least partly because of exposure to gasoline fumes? Maybe hundreds of thousands…maybe those of us from the baby boomer generation will be bulging out the walls of the Alzheimer's nursing homes, just like we bulged out the walls of schools. The situation may make the Chinese manufactured toy recalls of the past year seem miniscule if the costs of having lead in gasoline for decades are ever successfully totaled.
Thanks to those of you who gave me some sympathy about my toothache. It was the worst one I've ever had, thanks to an infection in my jaw. I spent an hour in the dentist's chair on Monday getting drilled. A root canal has eased the pain; antibiotics are helping the infection, the cold air outside and constant bombardment of winter weather aren't. Even if I wasn't able to retire from my job due to a prematurely aging brain I'd want out just because of the weather.