The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) just lowered its lead limits for children. The move is the first of its kind regarding what represents lead poisoning in children since 1991.
The CDC posted on its web site that the change came after recommendations made by an advisory panel earlier this year, said The LA Times, and noted that it was unclear about the decision’s impact and that it lacked funds for additional testing or to determine and decontaminate potentially lead poisoned sites, said The LA Times.
“The proposed methods to address recommendations are contingent on the availability of resources. In FY 2012, funding for CDC’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention activities was reduced significantly from FY 2011. As a result, funding is not available for state and local Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Programs (CLPPPs). In many instances, these reductions limit CDC’s ability to fully implement many of these recommendations in the short term,” the Center noted in its report, according to The LA Times.
The CDC, which said it will now conduct reassessments every four years, said that while it typically follow its advisory panel’s recommendation, it could not carry out all the recommendations, despite its agreement to do so, because it lacks funding. For instance, said the LA Times, the advisory group suggested doctors report high lead levels to local health departments, retest children to locate changes, and assist parents in locating and eliminating lead sources. The CDC agreed it lacked staff or funds for these measures.
The more stringent standards define poisoning when 5 micrograms of lead are present per deciliter of blood, a decrease from the prior standard of 10 micrograms for children younger than 6 years of age. Banned in paints since 1978, lead can still be found in dust at work sites and in leaded gasoline. Lead is detected in the human body through blood testing, said The LA Times,
We recently wrote that a new study revealed that childhood exposure to lead dust is linked to violence, suggesting issues with exposure to leaded gasoline and acts of violence up to 20 years after the exposure. According to the researchers, vehicles that used leaded gasoline—best known for its air contamination—have led to increases in aggravated assaults in urban areas.
As we’ve long written, exposure to lead in children and unborn children can cause brain and nervous system damage, behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, headaches, mental and physical retardation, and behavioral and other health problems. Lead is also known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and, in adults, can damage the nervous system. The developing brain is of particular concern over negative influences known to have long-lasting effects that can continue well into puberty and beyond. Once poisoned, no organ system is immune.
Children with lead poisoning may experience irritability, sleeplessness or excess lethargy, poor appetite, headaches, abdominal pain with or without vomiting—generally without diarrhea—and constipation, and changes in activity level. A child with lead toxicity can be iron deficient and pale because of anemia and can be either hyperactive or lethargic. In adults there may be motor problems and an increase in depressive disorders, aggressive behavior, and other maladaptive affective disorders, as well as problems with sexual performance, impotence and infertility, and increased fecal wastage and sleep disorders. Lead poisoning can also result in oversleeping or difficulty falling asleep.
The LA Times pointed out that high lead levels can lead to coma and lower levels to reduced IQ scores, according to the CDC. Officials estimate 77,000 – 255,000 children suffer from high lead levels and that the tougher standards may reveal an increase in these figures to 450,000.