Lead Poisoning and Kids
Lead Poisoning: What It Is, How to Test, What to Do
WebMD News Archive
What Is Lead Poisoning? continued...
Everybody agrees that there is no "safe" level of lead exposure.
However, the CDC doesn't recommend taking action unless a child's blood-lead
level exceeds 10 micrograms/dL -- a threshold set in 1991. Rosen says that's
far too high.
"There are now seven peer-reviewed articles in the medical literature
that indicate the major loss of IQ occurs in children at blood-lead levels of
less than 7.5 micrograms/dL," Rosen says. "A threshold of 10 is no
longer protective of children. ... I would very strongly suggest lowering the
threshold to 5, based on abundant data in the last five years."
The CDC says about 310,000 American kids (1 to 5 years old) have blood-lead
levels over 10 micrograms/dL.
A U.S. child's main risk of lead poisoning comes from the lead-based house
paints in near-universal use before 1950. The paints were banned for housing
use in 1978. An estimated 24 million U.S. housing units -- which some 4 million
young children call home -- have deteriorated lead paint contributing to
lead-contaminated house dust.
"Very small particles of paint get into household dust you cannot
see," Rosen says. "That gets on hair, fingers, toys, and skin. Through
normal hand-mouth activity, that paint is absorbed."
How long it takes a child to absorb toxic levels of lead depends on the
concentration of lead in the dust. Rosen says that in a typical
lead-contaminated housing unit, it takes one to six months for a small child's
blood-lead levels to rise to a level of concern.
"If the amount of hand-to-mouth activity is robust, and the
concentrations of lead in that housing unit are substantial, it does not take
long," he warns.
What about the recently discovered lead paint on children's toys?
"In terms of pervasiveness and widespread distribution of those toys,
only time will tell how many children will be identified who develop lead
poisoning. At the present time that is unknown, although the risk is
definite," Rosen says.
As you sort through your child's toy box, are you
your pediatrician for a lead poisoning test
? Some folks on our Parenting: 9-12 Months message board
are doing just that. Read their comments and share