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Recognizing the risk: No safe level of lead for children

The water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan has called new attention to the dangers of lead poisoning, especially in children.

It will likely be years before the full extent of the damage done to the city's young people is realized.

This is the backdrop against which the American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a new policy statement, calling for stricter regulations to protect children from this health threat.

The statement reads in part:

"Even at half the levels previously considered safe, growing evidence shows a child’s exposure to lead can cause irreversible cognitive and behavioral problems."

Dr. Jennifer Lowry, chair of the AAP Council on Environmental Health and an author of the policy statement, is quoted as saying, "we now know that there is no safe level of blood lead concentration for children, and the best ‘treatment’ for lead poisoning is to prevent any exposure before it happens."

"Most existing lead standards fail to protect children. They provide only an illusion of safety. Instead we need to expand the funding and technical guidance for local and state governments to remove lead hazards from children's homes, and we need federal standards that will truly protect children," Dr. Lowry adds.

The AAP is also calling on pediatricians to do more screenings of young children, particularly those who live in older neighborhoods where lead is more likely to be present.

According to the AAP, 37 million homes still contain lead paint. All homes should be inspected for lead prior to purchase. If you rent, ask the landlord about lead before signing a lease.

More information about lead exposure can be found here and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you are concerned about lead exposure, talk to your child's doctor. A simple test can determine the level of lead in his or her blood. These tests are covered by Medicaid and most private insurers.