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CDC Lowers Recommended Limit For Lead Exposure In Children

The New York Times (5/17, A24, Hartocollis, Subscription Publication) reports, "For the first time in 20 years, federal health authorities have lowered the recommended limit for lead exposure in young children, which they say could add 200,000 children to those believed to have unsafe lead levels in their blood." The recommendation, "announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday and applicable to children under six, lowers the threshold to five micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, from 10 micrograms per deciliter." Christopher Portier, director of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, "said that the new standard was based on the lead levels in the highest 2.5 percent of children and that it represented a shift in policy, to a public health approach focusing on prevention, from a more clinical approach to lead poisoning." USA Today (5/17, Weise, Young) reports, "The new guidelines are based on recommendations made by the CDC's Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention work group." As many as "365,000 more children across the USA will be considered at risk of lead poisoning under" the "new guidelines." The AP (5/17, Stobbe) reports, "Under the old standard, lead poisoning in children had been declining in the US. Experts estimated that somewhere between 77,000 and 255,000 children had high levels of lead, though many of them are undiagnosed." The Wall Street Journal (5/17, Martin, Subscription Publication) reports that even low levels of lead in a child's bloodstream can cause symptoms, such as hyperactivity or stomachaches, according to Portier, who said, "We don't see any research that suggests a threshold for the effects of lead in children." The Baltimore Sun (5/17) reports that "Portier said his agency wants doctors to recheck the files of children not previously considered at risk of poisoning." According to Portier, "It's going to have to be handled on a case-by-case basis by physicians, but our recommendation would be to revisit those cases." Physicians "should routinely ask families of children six years old and younger for an environmental history, he said, including asking whether they live in a house built before lead paint was banned." The Huffington Post (5/17, Peeples) reports, "Children's health advocates applauded the decision, but also expressed concern that recent congressional budget cuts will drastically limit funds that could help affected kids and prevent further poisoning." While "lead-removal programs have made significant progress in recent years...the Huffington Post reported in March" that "funds for the CDC's Lead Poisoning Prevention Program have been cut by 93 percent -- down to $2 million this year from $29.2 million last year." The NPR (5/17, Hensley) "Shots" blog reports that "the CDC acknowledged in its response to the panel's recommendations that it doesn't have the resources to fulfill several of them, such as implementing a national policy to prevent kids from being exposed to lead in the first place, even though it agrees with them in principle." Also covering the story are the Dallas Morning News (5/17, Wigglesworth), HealthDay (5/17, Reinberg), and MedPage Today (5/17, Gever).