Childhood Lead Poisoning

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Childhood lead poisoning is preventable. In the United States, the major source of lead exposure among children is lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust found in buildings built before 1978. No safe level of lead exposure has been identified.

We Track That

Older homes can have peeling or chipping lead-based paint and high levels of lead-contaminated dust, and have young children living in them. Having measures for blood lead levels (BLLs) and a measure for age of housing together on the Tracking Network can help assess testing within areas of high risk.

Types of Data

Age of Housing
This indicator uses census data to provide information about the number of homes built before 1950 and homes built from 1950-1979. Living in an older home is one risk factor that can contribute to higher blood lead levels in children. Census data do not account for the number of older houses that have been renovated or have had lead removed; and this indicator does not consider other sources of lead in the community.

Annual Blood Lead Levels
This indicator provides information on the number of children tested each year for blood lead. This information is used to direct resources for testing and management of cases with blood lead levels (BLLs) greater than 5 µg/dL and can be used to monitor trends over time. The data are used to better understand and interpret BLL surveillance, compare testing and BLLs within states, and monitor progress towards eliminating BLLs greater than 5 µg/dL.

Blood Lead Levels by Birth Cohort
This indicator uses data collected by state and local childhood lead poisoning prevention programs. It provides information about blood lead testing and BLLs among children born in the same year, known as a birth cohort. These data can be used to identify and monitor changes in blood lead levels over time and to monitor progress toward reducing and preventing exposure to lead in children.

¶ These data are supplied by health departments funded by the CDC Tracking Program and CDC’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

Data Limitations:

  • The analysis uses the county of the child’s residence at the time of the test, which may be different from the county where the child was exposed to lead.
  • Counties are not homogenous with respect to the distribution of lead hazards or risk factors for lead exposure.
  • Number and percent of BLLs reported through surveillance data cannot be interpreted as prevalence or incidence for the population as a whole.
  • State-to-state comparisons must be made cautiously and require additional information about the states’ testing practices, confirmatory testing practices, and reporting laws.
Data Highlight
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View childhood lead poisoning data in maps, charts, or tables using the Tracking Network’s data explorer tool.

Data in Action

By tracking children with lead poisoning and sources of lead, we can:

  • identify children at risk in order to target testing and resources;
  • connect children with elevated BLLs to recommended services;
  • monitor progress towards eliminating childhood lead poisoning;
  • identify and monitor trends in lead sources that are exposing children to lead;
  • remove and reduce sources of lead; and
  • develop and evaluate lead poisoning interventions and programs.

Read these success stories to learn about childhood lead poisoning related work in our funded Tracking Programs.

Iowa | Kansas | Maine | Massachusetts | New Jersey | Pennsylvania | South Carolina | Utah | Washington

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Page last reviewed: July 28, 2021