Children who are poor often don’t get the medical follow-up they need for lead exposure, and those at highest risk for lead poisoning are the least likely to get additional testing, a study in Michigan found.
The study involved 3,682 children in the Medicaid program whose blood tests showed levels of lead that could harm mental function. Only about half the children — 54 percent — had follow-up testing within six months, the researchers said.
Although banned from housepaint since 1978, lead-based paint still exists in older homes, especially homes inhabited by low-income families. The reason for the ban was because of the serious health threat lead poses to children especially through ingesting paint chips and breathing lead-contaminated house dust. Lead can interfere with development of the central nervous system and severe lead poisoning can cause seizures and even death.
Even though the incidence of elevated lead levels in children has been reduced substantially over the past several decades, lead poisoning in children remains a serious environmental problem. Unfortunately, in a move to appease the Lead Industry but without regard for child safety, the Bush Administration is attempting to create more stringent federal standards for lead poisoning. If the administration is successful, current lead levels in the blood would not meet the standard for lead poisoning and children could be potentially exposed to higher levels of lead.
If we truly value the well-being and future success of our children, saddling them with cognitive deficits due to lead exposure is certainly not the way to give them a head start.