Pediatricians Say U.S. Not Doing Enough to Prevent Childhood Lead Poisoning
About the Lead Poisoning Study
Although there have been dramatic declines in childhood lead poisoning over the past few decades, the American Academy of Pediatrics claimed that preventive measures against lead poisoning in the United States are not effective enough.
This statement comes after thousands of children suffered from lead poisoning from drinking contaminated water in Flint, Michigan. However, the study published in the Journal of Pediatrics revealed that the problem is not just limited to Flint. In fact, six U.S. zip codes were found to have at least 14% of tested children with high lead levels in their blood. These communities were Syracuse, Buffalo and Poughkeepsie in New York; York and Oil City in Pennsylvania, and Cincinnati. The states with children with highest lead levels were Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, and Connecticut.
While the new policy statement informs doctors on what should be done when they find a child with a high lead level, it also notes that finding and helping poisoned children is too late. At this point, irreversible brain damage has occurred. Additionally, lead poisoning has been linked to declines in intelligence and problems with attention and behavior. The statement advised that federal, state, and local governments fully fund and implement programs to get lead out of homes, soil, water, and consumer products. Household dust and soil contaminated by old lead-based paints are the biggest sources of lead exposure.
David Jacobs, chief scientist at the National Center for Healthy Housing, said, “It shouldn’t take things like Flint to get the nation’s attention,” but largely as a result of that crisis, there are multiple bills before Congress to increase funding for lead clean-up programs.
The published study was a nationwide study based on 5 million blood tests, conducted between 2009 and 2015, and included children ages 5 and under. The study revealed that 3% of the children had blood levels at a level that should trigger health actions for the child under guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the pediatrics academy. However, the data does not include children with lower blood levels of lead, who are also at risk for reduced IQ and other harms.
The academy and CDC do not recommend testing all children for lead. Rather they advise just testing children at highest risk, including those who live in areas with high poisoning rates.
Additional Information About Lead Poising
All information is provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Children are at higher risk for lead exposure if they are poor, members of racial-ethnic minority groups, recent immigrants, live in older, poorly maintained rental properties, or have parents who are exposed to lead at work.
- In 2012, CDC defined a reference level of 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) to identify children with elevated blood lead levels. These children are exposed to more lead than most children.
- In 2014, of the 2,496,140 children tested, the percent of children with confirmed elevated blood lead levels of higher than 10 μg/dL was 0.53%.