children, health, issues, news

I Need Some Clarity: Vitamin D, Breastfeeding and Black Children

A couple of weeks ago, I posted information about vitamin D deficiency and rickets in black children. In the source I linked to doctors and researchers attributed the increase in rickets to more black mothers who are breastfeeding due to sweeping WIC initiatives to raise breastfeeding rates among the nation’s black and poor mothers. They contend that black breastfed babies don’t get enough vitamin D because there is none present in breast milk.

Today, I found an article in Science News, Childhood Vitamin D—A Dark Side? , that says black children who live in urban areas have higher concentrations of lead when their levels of vitamin D go up. From the article:

In the April Environmental Health Perspectives, Bogden and his team report that among urban African-American youngsters, blood concentrations of lead can rise to potentially toxic concentrations in summer, when their vitamin D concentrations also rise, presumably due to regular sun exposure.

So, now which is it: should black breastfed children be given a vitamin D supplement to prevent rickets? Or, should they not, because according to this latest study, when concentrations of vitamin D rise, so do black children’s lead levels.

When the researchers tested Hispanic children who came from the same economic backgrounds and neighborhood as the tested black children, their lead levels were very low.

However, blood tests from the black children told a different story. In winter, lead averaged about 12 µg/dl of blood in children 3 and under, and roughly 5 µg/dl in the older kids. Come summer, values in both groups spiked dramatically: to about 22 µg/dl in the younger group and 9 µg/dl in the older children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers blood-lead values of 10 µg/dl and higher as excessive.

I know the answer is relatively simple: black moms should take their children outside more to get ample sunshine and live in a lead-free environment. My concern, however, is that for a lot of black mothers who live in urban areas, they may not know what may be causing a lack of development or even lack of academic progress in their children. According to the latest study,

Bruce P. Lanphear of Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati and his colleagues have shown that in kindergarteners, IQ can fall as blood-lead values climb above 5 µg/dl (SN: 5/5/01, p. 277: Available to subscribers at

Honestly, I don’t know what to make of these two studies. It’s almost like the old saying goes…you can’t win for losing.

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