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Current Trends Surveillance of Childhood Lead Poisoning -- United States

In the fourth quarter of fiscal year 1981, 59 childhood lead-poisoning prevention programs reported that 143,000 children were screened, and 6,500 were identified with lead toxicity. For the fiscal year, programs screened 535,000 children (the largest number ever tested in a single year), found almost 22,000 with the disease, and referred 23,000 for treatment for iron deficiency.

Childhood lead toxicity is found throughout the United States in both large and small communities. The Second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1976-1980 (NHANES II)--conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics to measure blood-lead levels in the general U.S. population--showed that 4% of all children, ages 6 months-5 years, had elevated blood-lead levels. Positivity rates ranged from 2.1% in rural areas to 11.6% in inner cities.

Since 1973, childhood lead-poisoning prevention programs have reported screening almost 3,900,000 children, 243,000 (6.2%) with lead toxicity. Because of the pervasiveness of childhood lead toxicity, many state and local child health programs have included lead screening as a routine service for all patients, ages 1-5 years. In fiscal year 1981, 70% of the children reported as being screened were initially tested in these other child health programs.

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