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B. A National Study Questions a Common Treatment for Lead Poisoning

Narrator: This is Science Today. The primary treatment for lead poisoning in children is a process known as chelation. Toxicologist Donald Smith of the University of California, Santa Cruz, says the most common drug used in chelation therapy is succimer, which is administered either by injection or taken orally.

Smith: And this drug acts essentially like a sponge and it binds the metal, lead in this case, and makes it in a form that can be readily eliminated from the body, usually via the urine.

Narrator: But a recent study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has raised new questions about the effectiveness of the drug, since findings suggested succimer - which is expensive and has the potential for serious side effects - did not appear to protect children from the learning disabilities and behavioral problems associated with lead exposure.

Smith: Part of that question is whether lead toxicity or lead exposure at certain ages creates a permanent level of toxicity or something that can be reversed by just lowering the body lead levels.

Narrator: In the meantime, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences advises using succimer with caution. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.