Lower Lead Poisoning Level Proposed

In this Jan. 26, 2016, file photo, a registered nurse draws a blood sample from a student at Eisenhower Elementary School in Flint, Mich. Earlier this fall, U.S. health officials changed their definition of lead poisoning in young children — a move expected to more than double the number of kids with worrisome levels of the toxic metal in their blood. The more stringent standard announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention means the number of children ages 1 to 5 considered to have high blood lead levels will grow from about 200,000 to about 500,000. AP file photo

It may take less lead next year in a New York state home for children to test positive for lead poisoning.

Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez, D-Bronx, recently introduced A.8564 in the state Assembly to bring the state Public Health Law’s definition of elevated lead levels into line with new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention levels recommended in October.

“Following this, it is incumbent upon the state of New York to accordingly take action by updating its public health law pertaining to this matter in order to ensure that New Yorkers stay safe from elevated blood lead levels which can have adverse effects, especially on children,” Fernandez wrote in her legislative justification.

Children can be exposed to lead through bits of old paint, contaminated dust, and — in some cities — drinking water that passes through lead pipes. The metal accumulates in the body, and at very high levels it can damage organs and cause seizures. Even at lower levels lead can harm a child’s brain development, which can lead to attention and behavior problems.

According to the AP, lead poisoning is assessed using a measurement of micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. In the late 1970s, the average blood lead level in U.S. children ages 1 to 5 was 15 micrograms per deciliter. The most recently reported measure, covering the years 2011-2016, was 0.83 micrograms.

In 1991, the standard for children was set at 10 micrograms per deciliter. In 2012, it was reduced to 5 micrograms. The new standard announced Thursday is 3.5 micrograms.

“Lead exposure at all levels is harmful to children and can be detrimental to their long-term health,” said CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director Dr. Debra Houry. “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.”

Despite the overall decline in blood lead levels, CDC officials said lead exposure remains a significant public health concern for some children because of persistent lead hazards in the environment. Sources of lead include housing contaminated with lead-based paint, soil contaminated by historical sources of lead including automobile gasoline and activities such as lead mining or smelting, drinking water lead service lines, and lead in household plumbing materials. Children may also be exposed to lead through ingestion of contaminated candies and food packaging; some folk remedies, cultural products, and consumer products; and lead dust that caregivers might bring home on their clothing from their workplaces.


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