Do Questions About Lead Exposure Predict Elevated Lead Levels?

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This descriptive study used a five-question questionnaire at our hospital-based general pediatric clinic and in two local private practices. We obtained venous lead levels from 485 children aged 9 months to 6 years who were brought for health supervision visits. The questionnaire was completed by a primary caretaker of 330 patients (68%). Contingency tables were used to compare lead levels with the responses on the questionnaire.


Lead levels of >=10 micrograms/dL were found in 23 (7%) of 330 who completed the questionnaire. Caretakers of children with elevated lead levels were more likely to answer yes to questions about chipping paint and home remodeling than those whose children had levels <10 (P = .0001). These questions had sensitivities for detecting elevated lead levels of 70% and 74% with negative predictive values of 97% and 98%, respectively. Questions about known contacts with lead poisoning and job or industrial exposure to lead each had sensitivities of <10%. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's definition of high risk for lead poisoning (one or more positive responses) was nearly 90% sensitive for detecting elevated lead levels with a negative predictive value of 99%.


This risk assessment questionnaire is an effective screening method for elevated lead levels in our population. Questions about the home environment were more sensitive indicators of elevated lead levels than other standard high-risk questions. Pediatrics 1994;93:192-194; infants and children, screen for lead poisoning.

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