Half-Million Kids Have Too Much Lead in Blood

lead in blood

A new study by the CDC, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, finds that over half a million U.S. children have abnormally high levels of lead in their blood. According to the study, which was conducted between 2007 and 2010, approximately 535,000 kids between the ages of 1 and 5 had at least 5 micrograms per deciliter of lead in their blood. Five mg/dl is the recommended maximum limit for blood lead content. The study indicates that about 2.6% of kids in the 1 to 5 age group are exposed to too much lead.

Even low levels of lead in a child’s blood can cause serious physical and mental health issues, including behavioral problems, difficulty paying attention and lower IQ scores. According to the researchers behind the study, any level of lead exposure is too much, especially for a child.

Gradual Improvements, Stricter Guidelines

A far greater percentage of kids in the 1- to 5-years-old category – 8.6%, to be exact – had above-normal blood lead levels when a similar study was conducted by the CDC between 1999 and 2002. However, in both that study and the more recent one, children from low-income and minority families were more likely to have abnormal levels of lead in their blood. This could be due to what the children eat, where they’re housed and other factors.

It’s important to note that the CDC’s guidelines for blood lead content just changed last year. Previously, the CDC defined 10 mg/dl of lead in the blood as a safe maximum level, though that figure now stands at just 5 mg/dl.

According to the CDC, the reason behind the change is that it will assist with early detection and give parents the information they need to cut down on their children’s lead exposure. Children who have a blood lead concentration of 45 mg/dl or higher require immediate medical attention in the form of chelation therapy.

Reducing Your Child’s Exposure to Lead

Was your home constructed before 1978? If so, there’s a good chance that some or all of your walls are coated with lead-based paint. Even if your child never touches the paint directly, it’s possible for the lead to reach your child’s body in the form of dust. Lead paint is best removed by a lead paint abatement specialist. If you attempt to remove the lead-based paint without taking the proper safety precautions, you could make the situation worse.

The CDC says that you can also increase your intake of calcium and iron in order to reduce your body’s ability to absorb lead.

The Bottom Line

Well over 500,000 children between the ages of 1 and 5 have abnormally high levels of lead in their blood, according to a new study by the CDC. If your home contains paint that was applied before 1978, there’s a good chance that your children are being exposed to lead-based paint.

The full text of the study can be found in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on the website of the CDC.

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