Blood lead levels – what is safe?

The question facing parents is whether their children are at risk.  Unfortunately, despite regulatory efforts and successful bans of lead paint and lead as a gasoline additive, lead remains a preventable childhood poisoning.  Don’t get me wrong – children’s exposure to lead has been significantly reduced.  Nonetheless, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s recent figures indicate that 1 out of every 10 children in the United States has a blood lead level greater 5 micrograms (ug)/deciliter (dL).  Now, this is below the current International and federal standard of 10 ug/dL, but that standard has been questioned.  Recent research, including a five year study published in The New England Journal of Medicine on April 17, 2007, found that most of the damage to a child’s intellectual functioning, measured by IQ testing, occurred at blood lead level concentrations below 10 ug/dL.  A report from the Work Group of the Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention to the Centers for Disease Control concluded that the overall weight of available evidence supports the finding that blood lead levels below the supposed “safe” level of 10 ug/dL have a negative impact on children’s cognitive development.  The recent research suggests that health effects can occur at blood lead levels as low as 2.5 ug/dL.  Next blog will look at sources of lead in the home. 



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