An advisory committee to a key federal government health agency recently recommended lowering the level of lead needed in a child’s blood to attach a medical diagnosis of “lead poisoning.” If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adopts its committee’s nonbinding recommendation, the official diagnosis would attach at a blood lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood, rather than at the current BLL of 10 ug/dl.
The CDC sets national public health policy and practice on acceptable lead levels in children and adults. The Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention – or ACCLPP – advised the CDC in January 2012, based on scientific evidence, that no level of lead is safe for the human body and that significant health problems from lead poisoning can present in children with BLLs between 5 and 10.
Presumably, official recognition of poisoning at a lower BLL will spur medical and environmental interventions sooner for more at-risk children. According to The Atlantic, about 250,000 U.S. kids have BLLs at 10 or higher, and lowering the diagnosis level to 5 BLL would raise the total children diagnosed with lead poisoning to 450,000. That is a lot more children that could be kept from potentially permanent impairment.
Why Does This Matter?
Lead is potentially dangerous for everyone, especially young children, nursing babies and their mothers, not to mention pregnant women and their unborn children.
Lead can wreak havoc on developing children, causing problems like:
- Developmental delays
- Lower IQ
- Attention deficit disorder
- Learning disabilities
- Behavior problems
For children, lead exposure comes primarily from two sources: paint and toys, with water and soil next in line. Paint made before 1978 that is present in many homes and apartments may be ingested by kids by eating peeled paint or by exposure to lead-laced dust.
There has been no shortage of news stories about toys and other objects coming into the U.S. that contain lead, often harming or even killing children who eat parts or are exposed to the tainted paint, plastic or metal in the products.
Sadly, kids with high lead levels may not show outward symptoms that would prompt intervention. New York, however, requires early BLL testing of children and ongoing physician discussions with caregivers about possible exposures.
Another insidious problem with lead is that it lurks in the body and its negative health impact is often not reversible, potentially causing medical problems over a lifespan. For example, pregnancy and lactation cause the leaching of lead long stored in the mother’s bones. This hidden lead source may then enter the fetus or breast milk.
New York law at all levels sets strict lead abatement standards for property owners and landlords of older property at higher risk of containing lead-based paint. Anyone who has suffered from lead exposure in a residential, day care or school setting should discuss possible legal remedies with an experienced New York lead poisoning attorney.