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Lead Levels Go Down In Children


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

New government report shows unbelievable progress concerning children's health - far fewer kids have dangerously high levels of lead compared to the numbers of 20 years going back.

Lead is a toxic metal that has been widely used in thousands of products, including the ones designed for kids. Lead from paint, water and soil can have a severe impact on the development of a nervous system of young people and cause irreversible neurological damage and issues such as cognitive disabilities, problems with conduct, as well as seizures and even death.

But a new medical investigation discovered a significant drop in the number of U.S. children with dangerously high lead levels of lead in their blood - the amounts that did not exist after 1970s when the toxic metal was taken out from gasoline and most paints.

A new study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined data of about 5,000 children with the ages between 1 and 5. It found that there was 84 per cent drop in lead levels in the majority of the kids. Only 1.4 per cent of younger children had increased levels of lead presence in 2004, to compare with 9 per cent in 1988. The researchers had concluded their study five years ago, but the still believe that the rates have continued to go down since then.

Lead poisoning is a medical condition which is caused by the increased levels of the lead in the blood. Children under the age of 6, and in particular those from low-income households, who inhabit in poorer, urban, and older communities, are more likely to face the risk from lead poisoning. It is also known that white children have always suffered much more from the exposure to lead, compared to African-American or Mexican-American kids.

The government officials state that lead-based paint in older homes, which can contaminate dust and soil of the house, is still considered #1 source of lead poisoning in kids. Paint chips that children might swallow and ingest can accumulate in the body and lead to an increased lead levels in the blood. In addition, kids may be exposed to lead in water, in most cases from old plumbing pipes and toys that were made by using lead-based paint.

According to the standards set by the U.S. government, levels of at least 10 microgram of lead per one deciliter of blood are already considered as elevated. However, there is no amount of lead in the human body that is known as safe, and even children with lower levels of the toxic metal, those below the government's elevated standard, have been diagnosed with problems such as attention deficits and experiencing difficulty when reading.

The CDC recommends that expecting mothers and children should avoid living in houses that have been built before 1978, and in particular if there is renovation going on. In this case the lead paint might be unsettled and can appear in dust. Other suggestions include:

  1. Washing children's hands and toys as frequently as possible.

  2. Frequent washing of floors and window sills in order to wipe off dust that may contain lead.

  3. Avoid drinking water from hot tap, as well as avoid using it for cooking and preparing baby formula. There are generally higher levels of lead in hot tap water than in cold water.

The CDC is planning to use all the possible means in order to eliminate elevated blood lead levels in children by 2010.

The study is published in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics.

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