You've probably heard that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week lowered the limit for child lead poisoning from 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood to five, so what does this mean for you and your family?
According to the CDC, about 250,000 children in the U.S. between the ages of one and five years old, have blood lead levels greater than 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, the level at which CDC recommends public health actions be initiated. The lower limit would put that figure at approximately 450,000.
However, even that level of lead is not ideal. "There is no safe level of lead in children, and so we should be trying our hardest to remove all lead from their environment," says Christopher Portier, director of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health.
As a parent, the safety steps you can take to protect your child from lead poisoning remain the same, according to Portier. Here is his list of best practices:
- Know that lead can be found in a variety of sources, including homes built before 1978, lead plumbing, and imported products such as children's toys and jewelry.
- Talk to your local health department about testing for lead in household paint and dust.
- Be careful about DIY projects around the house. For homes built before 1978, sanding, cutting and demolition can create hazardous lead paint chips and the like. Renovations should be done by a certified professional.
- Mop areas frequently where you see paint chips or dust from peeling house paint.
- Limit lead from soil that can be tracked into your home by wiping feet on mats outside the door, and have people remove shoes before entering your house.
- Remove recalled toys and children's jewelry from your home and stay on top of recall announcements from the Consumer Protection Safety Commission.
- If after testing, you find your child has lead in his or her blood, discuss the results with your physician and seek out local community health organizations about what the next steps are.
"Lead in a child's environment is a very bad thing," says Portier. "And we'd like to clean that up completely."
Our own report, Here's what you can do to protect your child now, has information and tips about what you can do about lead, including how to reduce your child's exposure, and best practices for preventing lead poisoning.
Consumer Reports has been pushing for the lower 5 micrograms standard for several years now. Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., director of Consumer Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports, said the move by the CDC comes at a time when establishing standards to lower exposure to potential contaminants has been so difficult, that this can be seen as an especially decisive step forward in protecting public health.
"We are so pleased that the CDC has decided to lower the blood lead limit by 50 percent," Rangan said. "It will be important for lead limit standards, for example in consumer products, children's products, paint in old homes, or the frequency of monitoring lead levels in young children to be reconsidered to ensure that they are in line with this new exposure limit."
For information on lead test kits see our buying guide.