Although preventable, lead poisoning remains a significant health concern for young children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no safe level of lead in a child’s blood. Elevated levels can harm a child’s central nervous system and are associated with reduced IQ, behavioral problems and learning disabilities. Preventing exposure to this harmful metal and identifying if a child is being poisoned through regular blood lead testing are crucial to prevent long-term health outcomes.
This is a priority because…
- Lead poisoning outcomes are irreversible and can be prevented.
- 890 children has a confirmed elevated blood lead level in Iowa during 2017. That’s enough to fill 12 school buses.
- Each dollar invested in lead paint hazard control results in a return of $17–$221 or a net savings of $181–269 billion.
Although lead hazards in pre-1978 housing are the most common risk to young children in Iowa, lead can be found in many products and places. A child’s risk of exposure changes rapidly as they become more mobile. Most children with high levels of lead in their blood have no symptoms, and blood lead test is the only way to find out if a child has a high lead level.
One test does not rule out future exposure. At a minimum, the Iowa Department of Public Health recommends that all children in Iowa receive a blood lead test at 1, 2 and 3 years of age. In Iowa, children are required to receive a blood lead test before entering kindergarten. In 2017, approximately only 1 in 4 children were tested before their 6th birthday.
Improving health outcomes of children in Iowa can be achieved through increasing rates of blood lead testing at ages 1, 2, and 3; focusing on primary prevention through housing based strategies; and increasing knowledge and awareness through education and outreach.