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Opinion: Has your child been tested for lead poisoning? Here’s why they should be

Lead poisoning in children can dangerously damage their nervous systems — but it’s completely preventable if you take the right steps

SHARE Opinion: Has your child been tested for lead poisoning? Here’s why they should be
A lead water pipe from 1927 lies on the asphalt after being removed from the ground in Denver, CO.

On Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, U.S. health officials changed their definition of lead poisoning in young children — a move expected to more than double the number of kids with worrisome levels of the toxic metal in their blood. The more stringent standard announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention means the number of children ages 1 to 5 considered to have high blood lead levels will grow from about 200,000 to about 500,000.


In October of last year, with the recognition that there is no safe level of lead, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lowered the definition of an elevated blood lead level from 5 down to 3.5 micrograms/deciliter. Now more children in Utah are being identified with an elevated blood lead level. In 2019, by the old definition, slightly less than 1% of children tested 5 years and younger had an elevated lead level. This has risen to 3.4% of children with the new definition.

Young children and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to this neurotoxin that permanently damages the developing nervous system. Lead does not break down in the environment, so it is still present in pre-1978 paint chips and dust, as well as in soil and water. Lead can also be present in spices, makeup, pottery, ammunition and many other sources. Lead poisoning is preventable, but exposure needs to be detected early. During the pandemic, many children who should have been routinely tested at 1 and 2 years by a simple blood test were not, putting their future health at risk.

Make sure your child is tested before age 6. And if you are pregnant, get tested. 

Claudia Fruin

Salt Lake City