A federal advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that the level of acceptable blood lead levels (BLL) in children be lowered from 10 ug/dl to 5 ug/dl. By lowering the level just 5 ug/dls, the official count of children poisoned by lead each year leaps from 250,000 to 450,000 — a stunning statistic.
Why is this so important? It demonstrates that we as a country have not been diligent enough in the fight against lead poisoning. The committee’s report proves that children with BLLs as low as 5 ug/dls suffer from behavioral problems, including ADD/ADHD, in addition to lower IQs, which affect academic achievement. In addition, the committee reports that the adverse health effects of low-level BLLs extend beyond cognitive function to include cardiovascular, immunological, and endocrine impairment.
The committee recommends that primary lead poisoning prevention must start in the pediatrician’s office, beginning with counseling and environmental assessments. Damage caused by lead poisoning is irreversible, so if there is any chance a house or apartment ever had lead paint on its walls it should be tested immediately, and the children who live in the house should be tested for lead. The committee is also recommending that if a child has an elevated BLL, he or she immediately be placed on a diet high in calcium, vitamin C, and iron.
The committee also recommends that lead poisoning prevention education be extended to pregnant women, so they understand the importance of living in a lead-free environment. Even unborn children can be poisoned by lead.
Lead was banned as an additive to paint in 1978, but it’s safe to assume that most homes built before 1978 still contain lead-based paint. Even if layers of non-leaded paint are covering the lead-based paint, children can still be poisoned from the dust generated each time a window or door is opened or closed. Additionally, marine varnish is still manufactured with lead as an additive, and many homeowners use this varnish in their homes because they think it wears better than interior varnishes.
The goal of primary lead poisoning prevention is to ensure that all homes become lead free. That means that every home built before 1978 must be tested for lead paint, because testing is the only way to determine if remnants of lead-based paint still exist. The CDC’s Healthy People 2010 initiative has set a 10-year goal to end childhood lead poisoning. Only eight years left to make that goal. So many homes to test. So many children to test.
To help spread the word, Bust Lead Dust — www.BustLeadDust.com — is an educational campaign to educate the public about the dangers of lead dust poisoning. This blog is written by RTK Environmental Group, sponsors of the Bust Lead Dust campaign.
Our next post will discuss the diet every lead-poisoned child should be eating.