|Lead levels lower in children|
|Detail:|| A new government research reported in the journal, Pediatrics, show that far fewer children in the US have high lead levels than 20 years ago. The study is based on nearly 5,000 children, ages 1 to 5 who were part of a periodic government health survey.|
1.4 percent of young children had elevated lead levels in their blood in 2004 as compared with almost 9 percent in 1988. The 84 percent drop is outcome of efforts to remove lead from gasoline that began in the 1970s and subsequent continuing steps to reduce children's exposure to lead in old house paint, soil, water and other sources.
Lead can interfere with the developing nervous system and cause permanent problems with learning, memory and behavior. Though the government considers levels of at least 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood to be elevated, research has shown that levels less than that can still cause problems including attention and reading difficulties. According to the authors, there is no “safe” level, but lead poisoning is entirely preventable.
Racial disparities among children with blood-lead levels higher than 10 micrograms had mostly disappeared by 2004. About equal numbers of white, black and Mexican-American children had levels in that range. In the lower blood-lead levels, almost 18 percent of white children had levels of less than 1 microgram per deciliter, versus 11 percent of Mexican-Americans and 4 percent of blacks. Children from lower-income families also had higher lead levels than those from wealthier families.
Recommendations for prevention include: pregnant women and young children should avoid housing built before 1978 that is undergoing renovation; regularly washing children's hands and toys; frequent washing of floors and window sills; and avoiding hot tap water for drinking, cooking and making baby formula. Hot tap water generally contains higher lead levels from plumbing than cold water.