American Psychological Foundation

Lead poisoning remains a significant problem in the United States and has been associated with IQ deficits, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, stunted growth, and impaired vision and hearing.

Jody Nicholson, PhD, of the University of North Florida, received a 2008 APF Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Fellowship as a graduate student. Her project, "Get the Lead Out," targeted low-income families with children who had moderate levels of exposure and did not qualify for federal assistance. She evaluated the most cost-effective method for reducing the amount of lead dust in children's homes by using four groups:

  • A baseline group that received Environmental Protection Agency pamphlets on risk factors related to lead exposure and steps to reduce lead in the home.
  • A second group that received a professional home inspection for lead and was informed of the risks and steps that could alleviate or eliminate these risks.
  • A third group that was given a cleaning kit and instructions on how to use it to reduce lead in the home.
  • A fourth group that tested the interaction of the professional home inspection and the cleaning kit.

Nicholson found that study participants in all four groups significantly decreased the blood-lead levels in their children. Now Nicholson is working on a follow-up study, in which she hopes to find an effective way to educate parents on lead risk and prevention tactics. Her research was presented at the seventh annual St. Jude National Graduate Student Symposium. Nicholson was also invited as a guest on a 2008 PBS roundtable discussion in Indiana on lead exposure.

"As a junior researcher, I knew my study was empirically and theoretically sound, but getting this affirmation of its utility from an outside, prestigious agency helped me fully recognize how I could base my career on this research program," says Nicholson. "In essence, APF was investing in me, and I needed to be sure they saw a return on their investment. The combination of this validation and responsibility continues to fuel my research."