Lead Levels in Children Drop



A new government research report, put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states that lead levels in children are much lower than they were 20 years ago. This is “a stunning improvement” and a ray of good news in improving the health of the nation’s kids, especially those who live in industrial areas and older homes.

In the report, federal researchers found in 2004 that only a little over one percent of children had elevated levels of lead in their blood. In 1988, it was about nine percent. This is based on testing nearly 5000 children ages one to five, who were part of a government health survey. The results of this report can be found in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers say the drop can be seen beginning in the 1970s with efforts to remove lead from gasoline. This then continued to reducing children’s exposure to soil, water, house paint, and more with lead content. The result is an 84 percent drop in children’s high lead content.

Lead has been determined to be a metal that causes developmental problems in children with regard to memory, learning, and behavior. The government considers ten micrograms per deciliter of blood to be elevated, but they say even lower levels can cause problems with reading and attention. The study’s authors note that there is no safe level of lead in the blood of children.

Racial disparities have largely disappeared among children with high lead levels, but they remain at lower levels. It was found that almost 20 percent of Caucasian children, 11 percent of Mexican-American children, and four percent of African American children have levels of less than one microgram per deciliter. Furthermore, low-income children are still more likely to have higher lead levels in their blood than the children of wealthier families.

The CDC recommends that young children and pregnant women avoid housing that is undergoing renovation if it was built before 1978. They also recommend frequently washing floors and window sills where lead-based paint dust can collect, regularly wash children’s hands and clothes, and avoid drinking hot tap water, which has more lead in it than cold water.