Study: Over half of children in the U.S. have detectable levels of lead in their blood

Posted at 2:57 PM, Sep 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 17:43:12-04

(WXYZ) — A new published study has found that over half of American children have detectable levels of lead in their blood. And 71% were under the age of three.

This new study used sensitive technology, which allowed the researchers to detect low levels of lead. Now over 1.2 million children under the age of 6 had blood samples tested between October 2018 and February 2020. And surprisingly, one in two children tested had detectable levels of lead. I say surprisingly because blood lead levels have declined over the last 45 years due to public policies.

How high were the levels? 50.5% of the children had a blood lead level of ≥1.0 µg/dL. And almost 2% of the children tested had a blood lead level of ≥5.0 µg/dL. And ≥5.0 is considered elevated here in the US. But unfortunately, there is no level of lead that is considered safe for children. Because lead is a toxic metal.

Children in all 50 states and the District of Columbia were tested, but Michigan was noted twice for high levels. Twenty-four states had detectable blood lead levels above the total population rate of 50.5%. And Michigan had the third highest percentage at 78%. Also, Michigan was also one of six states that had elevated blood lead levels that were more than double the national rate – our percentage for that was 4.5. Now, the researchers' analysis also found that kids in areas with the highest rates of poverty were the most at risk. There were also ties between exposure and older homes, mostly pre-1950’s housing. As well as race, with many Black and Hispanic communities affected.

Lead can be very harmful, especially for young children. It’s a neurotoxin and can harm the brain and nervous system. Children can have trouble learning, hearing, and speaking. Their behavior can also be affected. So what can parents do? If you’re concerned, I highly recommend you have your child tested. If lead is detected, then you’ll want to look for possible causes. Like lead paint or lead pipes in older homes. Lead can also be found in soil and areas with heavy industry. Prevention is so critical. Because health effects are usually permanent. However there are some dietary measures and medical treatments that might reduce the damage caused by lead exposure.