Indicator Report - Blood Lead in Children
Why Is This Important?Lead poisoning is the most significant and prevalent disease of environmental origin among children living in the United States. Despite considerable knowledge and increased screening and intervention efforts, lead exposures remain prevalent. Environmental lead is a toxic substance that is affecting the growth and development of up to one million U.S. preschool children today, with effects ranging from learning disabilities to death. High levels of lead can cause many health problems by damaging the brain, nervous system, and kidneys. Lead poisoning can cause decreased intelligence, behavioral and speech problems, anemia, decreased muscle and bone growth, poor muscle coordination, and hearing damage.
Increased lead exposure and increased body burden of lead remains a significant problem for children in the United States. Lead is an environmental toxicant that may cause adverse health effects to the nervous, hematopoietic, endocrine, renal, and reproductive systems. Lead exposure in young children is particularly hazardous because children absorb lead more readily than adults and many children who are exposed to lead do not exhibit any signs that they have the disease. Any signs or symptoms the child may have could be mistaken for other illnesses and the child goes undiagnosed. The developing nervous system of children is particularly more susceptible to the effects of lead. The underdeveloped blood-brain barrier in young children increases the risk of lead entering the developing nervous system resulting in neurobehavioral disorders. Blood lead levels (BLLs) as low as 10 mcg/dL have been shown to be associated with behavior and developmental deficit in children. Additional evidence has shown that lead is toxic at even lower levels than previously thought, making it increasingly important for childhood lead poisoning prevention education and awareness.
While all persons are exposed to lead in the environment, a significant source of lead exposure for some adults may be their workplace environment. Also, adults that are being exposed to lead at the workplace may bring home the leaded dust on their clothes, shoes, etc. and possibly expose other family members if precautionary measures are not taken.
Lead-contaminated water, soil, and paint have been recognized as potential sources of children's lead exposure. Dust from deteriorating lead-based paint is considered to be the largest contributor to the lead problem. Until the 1950s, many homes were covered inside and out with leaded paints. Lead began to fall from favor in the 1950s, but was still commonly used until it was banned from use in homes after 1977. Because of the long term use of lead-based paints, many homes in the United States contain surfaces with paint, which is now peeling, chalking, flaking, or wearing away. The dust or paint chips contain high levels of lead that easily find ways into the mouths of young children. A particular problem has emerged due to the large number of homes with lead-based paints which are now undergoing renovations. Often the dust created by this work has high lead levels which are readily absorbed by the children's developing bodies.
Another environmental source of lead in Utah, is household dust and soil containing particles of lead from mining waste. Communities built near or on mining and smelting waste piles, where children may play, is a significant source of lead exposure in children.
Data Notes*EBLL = Elevated Blood Lead Level (>= 10 mcg/dL).
Prevalence is calculated as (number of cases with an elevated blood lead level/number of persons tested) x 100. Prior to 1996, results on children were not collected, therefore, this calculation was not made for those years.
Data SourcesUtah Blood Lead Registry. Environmental Epidemiology Program, Division of Disease Control and Prevention, Utah Department of Health.
DefinitionPercentage of children tested, aged 0 through 5 years with blood lead levels of 10 mcg/dL or greater in this age group.
Number and percent of children aged 0 through 3 tested for lead poisoning.
How We Calculated the Rates
Page Content Updated On 08/30/2012, Published on 09/07/2012