Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. HC 2.9 Lead exposure

04/01/1997

Exposure to lead has long been recognized as a serious health hazard, particularly for infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children, whose developing nervous systems are sensitive to lead. Research during the past two decades has shown that adverse health effects can occur from blood lead levels (BLLs) that had previously been considered safe. Based on this research the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now consider BLLs at least as low as ten micrograms per deciliter of blood as hazardous for children ages one to five.27

Dramatic Decreases in Blood Lead Levels. The percentage of very young children who have been exposed to potentially dangerous levels of lead declined dramatically in the 1980s (see Table HC 2.9). Data gathered between 1976 and 1980 revealed that 88.2 percent of children between the ages of one and five had blood lead levels which have been shown to have adverse health effects. Subsequent data gathered between 1988 and 1991 found that only 8.9 percent of children had hazardous levels of lead in their blood. This dramatic decrease has been attributed primarily to the removal of lead from gasoline and from soldered food and soft drink cans. Other contributing factors have been the ban on leaded paint for residential use in 1978, the ban on lead in solder for household plumbing, and the ongoing screening of children for lead exposure. Deteriorating lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older homes are the primary source of lead exposure for children in the United States today.28

Differences by Race/Ethnicity,29 Family Income, and Place of Residence. The decline in blood lead levels occurred among both non-Hispanic black and non-Hispanic white children.30 However, non-Hispanic black children, poor and near-poor children, and children living in the central areas of large cities still faced considerably higher risks of being exposed to high levels of lead (see Figure HC 2.9 and Table HC 2.9). For many children, these higher risks were probably related to residence in older homes which contained deteriorated lead-based paint.
 
 

Figure HC 2.9  
Percentage of Children Ages 1-5 With Blood Lead Levels Greater Than or Equal To Ten Micrograms per Deciliter 

HC2_9.GIF

Source: Pirkle, James L., Brody, Debra J., Gunter, Elaine W., Kramer, Rachel A., Paschal, Daniel C., Flegal, Katherine M., and Matte, Thomas D. (1994) The Decline in Blood Lead Levels in the United States: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) in Journal of the American Medical Association Volume 272, pp. 284-291. Brody, Debra J., Pirkle, James L., Kramer, Rachel A., Flegal, Katherine M., Matte, Thomas D., Gunter, Elaine W., and Paschal, Daniel C. (1994). Blood Lead Levels in the U.S. Population: Phase 1 of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III, 1988 to 1991) in Journal of the American Medical Association Volume 272, pp. 277-283.
 
 

Table HC 2.9 
Percentage of Children Ages 1-5 With Blood Lead Levels Greater Than or Equal To Ten Micrograms per Deciliter

 
   
1976-1980
1988-1991
   
 
 
       
ALL CHILDREN AGES 1-5
88.2
8.9
 
  Ages 1-2
88.3
11.5
  Ages 3-5
88.1
7.3
 
Race/Ethnicity
  White, non-Hispanic
85
5.5
  Black, non-Hispanic
97.7
20.6
 
Income
  0 to 129% of Poverty
 
16.3
  130% to 299% of Poverty
 
5.4
  300% of Poverty or Greater
 
4
 
Urban Status
  Central City Greater Than 1 Million
 
21
  Central City Less Than 1 Million
 
16.4
  NonCentral City
 
5.8
 
Source: Pirkle, James L., Brody, Debra J., Gunter, Elaine W., Kramer, Rachel A., Paschal, Daniel C., Flegal, Katherine M., and Matte, Thomas D. (1994) "The Decline in Blood Lead Levels in the United States: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES)" in Journal of the American Medical Association Volume 272, pp. 284-291. Brody, Debra J., Pirkle, James L., Kramer, Rachel A., Flegal, Katherine M., Matte, Thomas D., Gunter, Elaine W., and Paschal, Daniel C. (1994). "Blood Lead Levels in the U.S. Population: Phase 1 of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III, 1988 to 1991)" in Journal of the American Medical Association Volume 272, pp. 277-283.

 

27 Centers for Disease Control. Preventing Lead Poisoning in Young Children: A Statement by the Centers for Disease Control. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service: 1991.

28 Centers for Disease Control. " Blood Lead Levels -- United States, 1988-1991. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report August 5, 1994, Vol. 43, No. 30; and, Pirkle, James L., Brody, Debra J., Gunter, Elaine W., Kramer, Rachel A., Paschal, Daniel C., Flegal, Katherine M., and Matte, Thomas D. (1994) "The Decline in Blood Lead Levels in the United States: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES)" in Journal of the American Medical Association Volume 272, pp. 284-291.

29 Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races.

30 Data for Mexican-American children for 1982-1984 and 1988-1991 show a similar trend. While 61.5 percent of 4-5 year old Mexican-American children had hazardous levels of lead in their blood in 1982-1984 the total was 4.9 percent by 1988-91. Pirkle, James L., Brody, Debra J., Gunter, Elaine W., Kramer, Rachel A., Paschal, Daniel C., Flegal, Katherine M., and Matte, Thomas D. (1994) "The Decline in Blood Lead Levels in the United States: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES)" in Journal of the American Medical Association Volume 272, pp. 284-291.
 

View full report

Preview
Download

"97intro.pdf" (pdf, 97.9Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"97-sec1.pdf" (pdf, 163.75Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"97-sec2.pdf" (pdf, 235.24Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"97-sec3.pdf" (pdf, 269.73Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"97-sec4.pdf" (pdf, 331.35Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"97-sec5.pdf" (pdf, 202.8Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®