An expert panel reporting to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today recommended lowering the threshold for lead poisoning in children. Based on recent research, the panel believes children could be harmed by lead levels lower than the current standard of 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood, and suggested 5 micrograms as the new standard.
This is the first suggested change to the standard in 20 years. Lead was once common in household paints and gasoline, but has been phased out of those products. Blood lead levels in children have been on the decline since, and most childhood victims of lead poisoning today live in old homes that are run down or being remodeled, or are exposed to lead from contaminated soil and industrial worksites.
But health officials still believe as many as 250,000 children suffer from lead poisoning – which can reduce intelligence and cause behavior problems at lower levels, and be fatal at high levels. The CDC generally adopts the recommendations of its expert panels, and this change in standards would almost double the number of cases.
Even under the current standard, many cases of childhood lead poisoning go undiagnosed. And in the current economic climate, questions have been raised about the ability of public health agencies to diagnose and treat those brought to light by the new standard.
Tags: lead poisoning