The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has lowered the minimum threshold for lead poisoning for children younger than 6.
The CDC has defined lead poisoning as five micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, which is half of what the minimum threshold used to be. The move is a reflection of growing research that suggests that even small traces of lead in the bloodstream may lead to lower IQ and stunted brain development.
For young children, the effects of lead in the blood stream, even at lower levels, may lead to stomach aches, irritability, or hyperactivity, and despite the fact that the effects are more subtle, they are just as harmful.
The changes were announced by the CDC through their website, following recommendations made by an advisory panel last January.
In its report, the CDC said: â€œThe proposed methods to address recommendations are contingent on the availability of resources. In FY 2012, funding for CDCâ€™s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention activities was reduced significantly from FY 2011. As a result, funding is not available for state and local Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Programs (CLPPPs). In many instances, these reductions limit CDCâ€™s ability to fully implement many of these recommendations in the short term.â€
Officials believe that an estimated 77,000 to 255,000 children have high levels of lead, although it may be difficult to determine the exact figure as there are quite a number of cases that remain undiagnosed. With the new standards, this statistic may shoot up to as much as 450,000.