CDC: High blood lead poisoning in children and how to prevent it

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FILE – In this Sept. 2, 2021, file photo, children sit in a classroom at school in Strasbourg, eastern France. Children across Europe are going back to school, with hopes of a return to normality after 18 months of pandemic disruption and fears of a new surge in infections from the highly infectious delta variant of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Jean-François Badias, File)

UTAH (ABC4) – Your child could be exposed to toxic lead levels right now and you may not know it.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its blood lead reference value (BLRV) for children from 5 µg/dL to 3.5 µg/dL. This effort aims to better identify children with higher levels of lead in their blood.

According to the CDC, even low lead levels can affect learning, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. The effects of lead poisoning are permanent, but health officials say if discovered early, parents can stop future contamination.

“No level of lead is safe and yet, more than half of our nation’s children are at risk of lead exposure, often in their own home,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Today’s action by the CDC is a reminder of how important it is for parents to ask their child’s doctor about early blood lead testing, so parents can take steps to keep them safe from the toxic and irreversible effects of lead exposure.”

Where is lead found in our daily environment?

Homes built before 1978 likely contain lead-based paint and when the paint peels or cracks, lead dust is easily inhaled or swallowed. Lead can also be found in household plumbing, toys, jewelry, candy and food packaging, and automobile gasoline among others.

Children can be exposed by parents who work in lead-based occupations such as stain-glass work or lead dust that caregivers may be bringing into the home on their clothing. Families living near airports or other polluted environments can be exposed to lead in the air and soil from toxic gas.

Unfortunately, CDC officials say children of the non-Hispanic Black or African American race, those living in low-income households, and children of immigrants or refugees are more likely to reside in a community where lead is present.

What can you do for your child?

If you suspect your child may have been exposed to lead, the easiest way to confirm is to ask your health care provider to administer a blood lead test. This information could mean faster removal of toxic lead sources if heightened levels are detected in your child.

“Lead exposure at all levels is harmful to children and can be detrimental to their long-term health,” said CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H. “Protecting the health and wellbeing of children as they grow and develop is of the utmost importance, and I am confident this update will allow us to further safeguard the health of the next generation.”

To learn more about blood lead levels in children, click here. For some easy things you can do to prevent potential poisoning, click here.

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