Lead, a heavy metal that does not break down, can accumulate in the body causing serious and permanent health problems to people of all ages. Lead poisoning can be acute or chronic. Acute lead poisoning occurs when an individual ingests or inhales a large amount of lead into the body over a short period of time. Chronic lead poisoning occurs when small amounts of lead are ingested or inhaled over a period of several months or years.Young children absorb lead more easily than adults. The harm done by lead may never go away. Even low levels of lead can harm the health of a child. There is no safe level of lead exposure.
Lead in the body can:
- Hurt the brain, kidneys, and nervous system
- Slow down growth and development
- Make it hard to learn
- Damage hearing and speech
- Cause behavior problems
Why Do We Track Lead Poisoning?
Although it is difficult to determine the actual number of properties in West Virginia that contain lead-based paint hazards, a review of the 2010 U.S. Census data for West Virginia indicates that there are approximately 597,266 housing units built before before 1980.This is a concern because lead-based paint containing up to 50% lead was in widespread use through the 1940s. The use and manufacture of lead-based paint declined during the 1950s and thereafter; however, lead-based paint continued to be available for use in residential dwellings until 1978.
By tracking children with lead poisoning, we can:
- Identify children at risk in order to target prevention and outreach activities
- Make case management services available to each child with lead poisoning
- Monitor progress towards eliminating childhood lead poisoning
- Evaluate and monitor trends to identify high risk populations
- Remove and reduce sources of lead
- Develop and evaluate interventions and programs
Who is At-Risk?
Individuals from all social and economic levels can be affected by lead poisoning. Children under the age of six years are considered to be at highest risk because they tend to put their hands or other objects into their mouth, they absorb a greater percentage of lead, and their developing body is more vulnerable to the effects of lead. Differences in the rate of lead poisoning have been identified by race and ethnicity, with non-Hispanic blacks and Mexican Americans being at higher risk than non-Hispanic whites. Children with a recent immigration status or from households below the federal poverty level are more likely to have elevated blood lead levels, independent of housing age. High-risk populations include those residing in older homes (built before 1978) or those whose home is located in a ZIP code with a high prevalence of lead poisoning or located where the proportion of homes built before 1978 is above the national average.
Recommend primary care providers consider oral chelation therapy treatment (e.g., succimer) for cases with a confirmed BLL ≥45 μg/dL.