A new guideline was released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions saying that more children are at risk for lead poisoning. For the first time in 20 years US health officials lowered the threshold for lead poisoning in children younger than 6-years old.
The new standard means that hundreds of thousands more children could be diagnosed with high levels of lead. The old standard for lead poisoning was defined as 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood while the new standard for lead poisoning was cut in half and is now 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood.
Christopher Portier, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who is the head of the environmental health programs said, “Really, there is no safe level of blood lead in children.”
“Unfortunately, many, many more parents will be getting bad news,” said Rebecca Morley, executive director of the National Center for Healthy Housing.
Under the old standard of 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 new new change could raise the amount of cases to 450,000.
The CDC’s standard for lead poisoning was last changed in 1991. The new standard was calculated from the highest lead levels seen in a comprehensive annual U.S. health survey. The CDC plans to reassess that level every four years.
Lead is a metal that was common in paint and gasoline years ago and can harm a child’s brain, kidneys and other organs. High levels in the blood can cause a coma, convulsions and even death. Lower levels of lead detected can still reduce intelligence, impair hearing and behavior and cause other problems in children.
“The problem with lead paint has lingered for decades,” experts said. “There will not be an end until there is a federal mandate to totally de-lead all pre-1960 housing,” Dr. John Rosen, a professor of pediatrics and head of the division of environmental sciences at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City said. He also emphasized that de-leading of a home should only be done by a licensed lead-removal contractor, as is required by law.