October 1997

Childhood Lead Poisoning and Vinyl Miniblind Exposure

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Environmental Health, North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources, Raleigh (Mr Norman and Ms Ward); Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Public Health, Chapel Hill (Dr Hertz-Picciotto); and Environmental Health Division, Mecklenburg County Health Department, Charlotte, NC (Mr Salmen).

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151(10):1033-1037. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1997.02170470067012

Objective:  To determine the contribution of vinyl miniblinds to childhood lead poisoning.

Design:  A descriptive investigation was undertaken to estimate attributable risk among all reported childhood lead poisoning cases in North Carolina for which home environmental sampling was conducted between March and August 1996.

Participants:  Ninety-two children, aged 6 to 72 months, identified through a statewide screening program were included. Blood lead and environmental sampling test results were obtained from routine surveillance data collected for all lead-poisoned children.

Results:  Exposure to vinyl miniblinds with dust lead levels of 100 μg/ft2 or more occurred for 44 (48%) of the lead-poisoned children; 25 (27%) of the children were exposed to levels of 500 μg/ft2 or more. Vinyl miniblinds were the predominant source (ie, other major sources of lead were not identified) for 8 (9%) of the children. Overall, the median dust lead level for vinyl miniblind field samples was 590 μg/ft2, and the highest level reported was 73 302 μg/ft2. Even new vinyl miniblinds manufactured before July 1996 contained dust lead levels that on average exceeded 100 μg/ft2. The levels for recently available nonleaded vinyl miniblinds were below the limits of detection.

Conclusions:  Vinyl miniblinds, introduced into this country 10 years ago, with sales estimated at 30 million sets a year, include brands containing lead. Although new formulations with no lead added are available, millions of children may still be at risk because a product recall has not been issued (ie, lead-contaminated vinyl miniblinds are still in general use). In addition, the risk assessment evaluations proposed in lieu of universal blood lead screening for low-risk communities could overlook children with exposure to this source.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151:1033-1037