Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Seeks to Cut Dangerous Exposure Level in Half
Those of us working in neurotoxicity have long realized that it does not take much lead exposure to adversely impact the developing nervous system. Last week, the US Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning recommended that the lead blood level iindicating dangerous exposure for children age 5 and under, be cut in half, from 10 micrograms per deciliter (current) to 5 micrograms per deciliter (proposed). This change would increase the number of children officially diagnosed with lead poisoning from 250,000 to 500,000.
When children are exposed to lead, this heavy metal toxicity damages the brain and other organs, often resulting in attention deficit disorders, reduced intellect and learning capacity, slowed motor responses, diminished coordination, behavior problems, cardiovascular changes and immune system issues. Many children go undiagnosed and untreated. While these brain-behavior effects are lasting, children can benefit from neurobehavioral treatment and specialized rehabilitation models. Although not a cure, significant progress can be achieved if diagnosis and referral for treatment occur in a timely manner.
The ultimate solution to childhood lead poisoning and other neurotoxin exposures is prevention, as the effects to neurobiology are irreversible. Unfortunately, children's blood tests are often the means through which substandard housing is identified after a child has been poisoned. The CDC estimates 24 million American homes are contaminated with lead, 4 million of those with children in residence. Lead is not only in house paint, but also has been detected in imported pottery, jewelry, candy and children's toys. While lead exposure is only one of the many potential neurotoxins that can damage children's brains and development, it is among the most widespread and preventable. Both the CDC's Healthy Homes website www.cdc.gov/healthyhomes and the Consumer Product Safety Commission www.cpsc.gov have information on removal and protection from lead and other harmful substances.