§ Sir Russell Johnston
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what studies his Department is conducting into the dangers of lead poisoning, especially for children; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Dorrell
The Department is not at present carrying out any such studies. There has been very extensive research into the dangers of lead poisoning, with particular attention to neuropsychological effects in children. Studies of the latter, undertaken in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, were reviewed in 1988 by an advisory group of the Medical Research Council, the main agency through which the Government support biomedical and clinical research in the United Kingdom. The advisory group concluded thatany effects of lead at the exposure levels seen in the United Kingdom are very small and cannot be detected with any certainty …but the evidence for an association between body lead burden and IQ is now stronger …In view of these conclusions it would be prudent to continue to reduce the environmental lead to which children are exposed.
Since 1974 it has been the policy of successive Governments to contain and reduce exposure to lead wherever practicable, particularly in those circumstances where people are most exposed. Successful measures have been taken to reduce lead exposure through petrol, water, air, food, industrial emissions, paint, cosmetics, ceramic glazes and toys, and monitoring programmes have shown a continuing fall in blood lead levels in children and adults.