Nakeyja Cade with her year-old daughter Zariyah Cade in Flint, Mich., last March. The girl’s blood had tested high for lead. (Linda Davidson / The Washington Post)

Children with elevated blood-lead levels at age 11 ended up as adults with lower cognitive function and lower-status occupations than their parents, according to new research that offers one of the clearest looks yet at the potential long-term health impact of the potent neurotoxin.

The findings, published Tuesday in JAMA, were based on a study that followed about 1,000 children born in the early 1970s in the coastal city of Dunedin, New Zealand. More than half were tested for lead in 1983, and nearly three decades later, those who’d had higher blood-lead levels as children were more likely to have lower IQs and to wind up lower on the socioeconomic ladder. Both associations remained even after researchers accounted for the children’s IQs, their mothers’ IQs and their social-class backgrounds.

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