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CDC changes minimum for lead poisoning test

By Calun Reece | health | June 07, 2012

The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention recommended a decrease May 16 in the standard measurement for lead poisoning among young children.

"It used to be if your child was tested and found 10 micrograms per deciliter of lead poisoning in his (or her) system, then the doctor would take a closer look and have more tests run for lead exposure," said Maj. Catharina Lindsey, chief, Army Public Health Nursing, Irwin Army Community Hospital. "Now, the new recommended standard is five micrograms per deciliter."

Lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust are the main sources of exposure for lead in U.S. children, but it can easily be prevented, according to CDC.

Fortunately, there are not a lot of cases of lead poisoning per year, Lindsey said, and, it is a rare occurrence at Fort Riley.

All infants receive a lead screening at 12 months on post, and then they may or may not get the screening at age 2, based on level of risk, according to Wayne Darsow, nurse practitioner, Fort Riley Department of Public Health, IACH. If the initial screening is abnormal, then more tests will be taken and the child will be closely monitored.

"I used to work at the Well Baby Clinic, and we did lead screenings, and really as a post, I think we really haven't had any significant problems with it," Darsow said.

Not all children are exposed necessarily through the household, Lindsey said. Potentially children could be exposed through a parents' clothing or occupation, when the parent carries things home.

One of the issues, however, is with houses built before 1978 because they are mostly likely to have at least some lead paint, according to the CDC.

"People generally don't have the original paint from 1978 because it's been painted over, and painting over the old paint – encapsulation – is actually a perfect intervention from lead exposure and possible lead poisoning," Lindsey said.

Any flaking paint or paint dust is a sign of possible lead exposure, however, and those who are renovating houses built prior to 1978 need to be watchful of lead exposure as well, according to the CDC.

"One of the larger concerns is children (who are) 6 and under because they are much closer to the floor surface, they breathe faster than we do, and it's a vulnerable period in terms of their brain development," Lindsey said.

Signs of possible lead poisoning include difficulty in learning and behavioral problems, according to the CDC.

"The key is prevention. Prevention needs to be stressed here because lead poisoning is easily preventable," Lindsey said.

The CDC lists several ways to help prevent lead poisoning, including the following:

• Make sure children do not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint.

• Pregnant women and children should not be present in housing built before 1978 that is undergoing renovation.

• Prevent children from playing in bare soil around homes built before 1978. If possible, provide them with sandboxes.

• Regularly wash children's hands and toys.

For more information, visit www.kshealthyhomes.org/ or www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/.

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