Equity & Diversity

Blood Lead Levels High in More Than Half Million U.S. Children

By Nirvi Shah — April 10, 2013 1 min read
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In the first analysis of children’s blood levels since federal officials revised the definition of what is considered a high amount, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report says that there are about 535,000 children ages 1 to 5 nationwide who have elevated blood levels.

In a report last week, the agency said that about 2.6 percent of the nation’s children in that age bracket have blood levels greater than or equal to 5 micrograms per deciliter—a new, lower amount that the CDC decided last year is enough to pose a risk to children’s health.

As my colleague Jaclyn Zubrzycki wrote last year, some researchers believe even lower levels of lead in children than even the new CDC standard for risk can have an effect on children’s academic achievement.

A recent study affirmed the effect of lead on academic performance and found that programs that reduced the rate of lead exposure and poisoning can also be tied to improved academic achievement.

The CDC notes that while the number of children with elevated blood levels has declined dramatically over the last 40 years, some children remain at risk for the effects of lead. Lead exposure, the agency says, can affect nearly every system in the body but often with no obvious symptoms, going unrecognized.

Lead poisoning is entirely preventable, the CDC said, and simple steps can be taken to make homes more lead-safe.

Poverty plays a key role: Housing quality, environmental conditions, nutrition, and other factors can have a direct effect on children’s exposure to lead.

Follow Rules for Engagement on Twitter @Rulz4Engagement and Education Week Staff Writer Nirvi Shah on Twitter @NirviShah.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.