A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that more than 500,000 kids have elevated levels of lead in their blood. That's up from previous years, in part due to the fact that the CDC recently lowered the standard for lead levels in children. But experts say this new data is proof that lead poisoning is still a very real threat for kids.
According to the new CDC data compiled between 2007 and 2010, about 535,000 children ages 1 to 5, or 2.6 percent of kids in this age group, had elevated blood levels of lead at or above the recommended 5 micrograms per deciliter (mg/dl.) This is the level at which the CDC recommends that children seek medical attention for lead poisoning. Last May, for the first time since 1991, this level was revised to 5 mg/dl from the previous level of 10 mg/dl.
The CDC cited the growing body of scientific evidence showing even low-level exposures to lead can cause significant harm to children as their reasoning for making the change. Even low levels of lead in the blood have been linked with lower IQs, attention problems, and other life-long health problems.
"No safe blood lead level ... in children has been identified," the CDC report notes.
So how does the lead exposure occur? Lead-contaminated house dust and soil are among the most common sources. Many older homes still contain lead-based paint, which deteriorates into a fine dust. Soil can be contaminated from paint, but also from lead-based pollution fallout. Children ingest lead particles when they put dust or dirt covered hands and toys in their mouths.