US Lowers Cutoff for Lead Poisoning in Young Kids

Associated Press
US Lowers Cutoff for Lead Poisoning in Young Kids
May 16, 2012

ATLANTA (AP) – For the first time in 20 years, U.S. health officials have lowered the threshold for lead poisoning in young children.

The new standard announced Wednesday means that hundreds of thousands more youngsters could be diagnosed with high levels of lead. Too much lead is harmful to developing brains and can mean a lower IQ.

“Unfortunately, many, many more parents will be getting bad news,” said Rebecca Morley, executive director of the National Center for Healthy Housing, a Maryland-based nonprofit focused on hazards to kids in homes.

The standard is for children younger than 6. Recent research persuaded experts and government officials that young children could be harmed from lead levels in their blood that are lower than the old standard.

Really, “there is no safe level of blood lead in children,” said Christopher Portier, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He heads the agency’s environmental health programs.

The CDC announced the change Wednesday, adopting recommendations made in January by an advisory panel of experts. At the same time, CDC officials acknowledged they don’t have additional funds to help doctors or local health departments do more testing of children or find and clean up lead contamination.

Lead poisoning is detected through a blood test. The change means poisoning will be defined as 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. The old standard was 10 micrograms.

Under the old standard, lead poisoning in children had been declining in the U.S. Experts estimated that somewhere between 77,000 and 255,000 children had high levels of lead, though many of them are undiagnosed. The change could raise the count to 450,000 cases.

(Read more)

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