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April 16, 2019

Blood Lead Screening and the Ongoing Challenge of Preventing Children’s Exposure to Lead

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Pediatrics, New York University School of Medicine, New York
JAMA Pediatr. 2019;173(6):517-519. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.0855

The last half century has witnessed important advances in the understanding of lead’s adverse effects on children’s developing brains and other organs and ways in which to reduce children’s exposure via the implementation of a wide array of highly effective public health regulations and other activities.1 Pediatricians have played critical roles in virtually all of these efforts as advocates, collaborators with public health entities and other stakeholders, and researchers.2 These activities, along with the deleading of gasoline, have resulted in a remarkable decrease in the mean blood lead levels among children in the United States. In the early 1970s, the mean blood lead level of US children aged 1 to 5 years was 16 μg/dL; today it is approximately 1 μg/dL.3 However, it remains unclear how effective screening for elevated lead levels of asymptomatic children actually is in protecting children from lead’s effects or from ongoing exposure.