A speck of lead dust as small as a grain of sand is enough to poison a child, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But is the CDC too lenient in its standard for the level of lead allowed in the blood?

Over time, the CDC has tightened the standard. Up until the 1970s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a blood-lead level of 60 mcg/dl was acceptable, six times the current blood-lead level of 10 mcg/dl, set by the CDC in 1991. Now, researchers have been documenting learning and behavioral problems in children at blood-lead levels below 10 mcg/dl.

Studies by Bruce P. Lanphear, M.D., MPH, have found that children’s brains are impaired at lead concentrations of 5 mcg/dl and lower. Dr. Lanphear is professor of children’s environmental health and professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati, Ohio.

“Here we are twenty years and many research studies later, and the blood lead level of 10 mcg/dl remains the same,” says Howard Mielke, Ph.D. “This is not exactly the kind of forward and proactive stance that I would hope for from the CDC.” Dr. Mielke, research professor at Tulane University, is one of the foremost experts in lead poisoning and an Advisory Board member of Bust Lead Dust, a national educational campaign to alert consumers about the dangers of lead dust and the insidious affects lead dust has on children.

A realist, Dr. Mielke knows that a change in the 10 mcg/dl levels is not about to happen soon. His advice: Anyone living in a pre-1978 built home or apartment should test their children’s blood lead level and their home. A blood test will reveal if your child has been poisoned by lead. An environmental test will pinpoint exactly where lead is lurking