A Baltimore organization has lauded the recommendation by a federal panel that the government should lower the amount of lead it considers to cause poisoning in children. An official of the group, the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, said the time had come for a government agency to define lead poisoning as 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood: half of the amount that currently defines lead poisoning.
Lead has long been considered a dangerous product, accounting for a hindrance to brain development and reduced IQs. Additionally, lead can lead to kidney problems, comas, convulsions, hearing abnormalities, behavioral problems and death.
Lead formerly was frequently found in gas and paint. Laws have prohibited lead in paint since 1978, but children still can be exposed if they live in old homes and can access paint chips. They also can pick up traces of lead from contaminated soil.
The recommendation came from the Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention and must be approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In previous instances, the CDC has adopted all panel recommendations.
It has been two decades since the federal commission has recommended lowering the level. Under the currently recognized level of 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter, health officials estimate that up to 250,000 children could suffer from lead poisoning. If the definition is changed, the number could rise to 450,000.
Proponents conceded it could prove difficult for local health departments to help an influx of children affected by lead poisoning. Congress has cut the CDC’s lead program budget to $2 million from $30 million. Budget reductions also have forced local health departments to trim more than 34,000 positions over the past three years.
Source: MSNBC, “Panel urges lower cutoff for child lead poisoning,” The Associated Press, Jan. 5, 2012