CDC panel recommends new lead level standards

January 4, 2012 8:16:35 PM PST
A recommendation by a federal panel could mean hundreds of thousands of more children are diagnosed with lead poisoning.

Too much lead in children can cause brain damage, even death.

New research shows the old standards of acceptable lead levels in children is just too high.

New research persuaded the CDC panel that the current standard is just not good enough.

So for the first time in 20 years, they're urging the government to lower the threshold for lead poisoning in children.

You see, too much of the metal is harmful to developing brains.

"Lead poisoning is a completely preventable disease," said Cordell Cleare, an advocate.

Cordell Cleare became an advocate for the cause after her child was diagnosed with lead poisoning.

She has worked with dozens of families across the country through the New York City coalition to end lead poisoning.

"90% of the children affected in New York City get it through their housing through the paint. Needless to say, most of the children affected are black and Latin children," Cleare said.

Here are some startling statistics from the Center for Disease Control.

While the number of cases has fallen, health officials think as many as 250,000 children have not been diagnosed with the problem.

The proposed change could shoot that number up to 450,000 cases.

"I think this decision by the CDC panel is overdue. We've known for years that lead is toxic to children's brains," said Dr. Philip Landrigan, M.D., M.Sc., Mount Sinai.

Mount Sinai Director of Preventive Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics Dr. Philip Landrigan say the affects are lifelong.

"Loss of IQ, shortening of attention spans, behavioral problems, we've learned that as these children grow up and go to school they have reading problems, math problems behavioral problems. They're more likely to drop out of school and more likely to be in trouble with the law," Dr. Landrigan said.

That's what pushed the panel to lower the definition of lead poisoning for young children from 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood to 5 micrograms.

A move advocates say will save a lot of families a lot of heart ache.

"There's a lot pain and a lot hurt and a lot of loss potential in children and a lot of agony for families who are already faced with so many other barriers," Cleare said.

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