Lead Screening is Important

Lead Screening is Important

My children were born in the ‘70s and I remember discussions with our realtor about whether there was lead in the paint of the very old house we were buying. Almost all houses built before 1970, at least in the US, contain some form of lead paint. The house we were buying was built much before 1970, and it was clear that we would have to sand and paint every room, change the plumbing and all the good things that come with owning an old home. And fortunately, we did all of that over time, very carefully. I will admit, however, that I do not remember if lead testing was one of the many conversations I had with our pediatrician about the health and safety of our children. Today, however, it is an essential conversation to have.

Lead poisoning has been in the news a lot over the last few months due to the concerning levels of lead found in the Flint water supply and its potential impact on the health and safety of the surrounding community. The news has been especially alarming for parents and families who work hard to keep their children safe and on a path to reach their fullest potential. Lead in the public water supply threatens that daily charge.

This issue is not only an issue specific to Flint: An estimated 10 million Americans get drinking water from pipes that are at least partially lead. It is why I am writing this today to share this important information once again.

Why is lead in the environment particularly threatening to children? Children’s bodies absorb lead more quickly and efficiently than adults. Lead accumulates in the body over time so ongoing exposure can become toxic—especially in small children. 

It is also important to know that lead poisoning is preventable and sources of lead be identified before children are harmed. The most important step that parents, teachers, and others can take is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has information on Lead Poisoning that you can read and share. LEAD Poisoning: Know the Facts [PDF ,277KB] (also available in Spanish) [PDF, 218KB].

Talk with your health care provider about lead screening. Lead screening measures the level of lead in the blood through a blood test in the finger or vein. It is important. Lead is a toxin that is particularly dangerous for young children because of their small size and rapid growth and development. It can cause behavioral and learning difficulties, anemia, seizures and other medical problems. A lead test is the only way to know if your child has lead poisoning. Most children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick. Talk to your doctor about this.

Dr. Nicole Lurie, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Preparedness, is coordinating the federal government's assistance in response and recovery efforts in Flint after high amounts of lead were found in tests. We are supporting those efforts at the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in multiple ways including outreach to our grantees to disseminate public health education to help families understand the risks of lead in the water, encouraging residents to have their children screened, and assisting families in obtaining screening for their children. Medicaid requires that all Medicaid-eligible children up to age 6 be tested for lead poisoning through the Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) Program, the child health component of Medicaid. Treatment is also covered under Medicaid.

But I said earlier that this isn’t just about Flint. It’s about wherever you live in the U.S. It is about your child, your children, your grandchildren and their health and safety. I suggest you discuss this with your doctor.

One of the goals of Healthy People 2020 is the elimination of childhood lead poisoning as a public health problem. Won’t you help? Please pass along this important information.

Below, you will find resources to provide more information.

Marsha Basloe, Senior Advisor for Early Childhood Development

Last Reviewed: March 8, 2016