Implications of the New Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Blood Lead Reference Value

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently established a new reference value (≥ 5 μg/dL) as the standard for identifying children with elevated blood lead levels (EBLs). At present, 535 000 US children aged 1 to 5 years (2.6%) are estimated to have EBLs according to the new standard, versus 0.8% according to the previous standard (≥ 10 μg/dL). Because EBLs signify the threshold for public health intervention, this new definition increases demands on lead poisoning prevention efforts. Primary prevention has been proven to reduce lead poisoning cases and is also cost effective; however, federal budget cuts threaten the existence of such programs. Protection for the highest-risk children necessitates a reinstatement of federal funding to previous levels.

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