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Lead Poisoning Stats by State

Lead poisoning can cause multiple developmental issues in children, including lower IQ, decreased attention span, and other neurological problems. Any problems that occur due to lead poisoning are permanent and irreversible.

Symptoms of lead poisoning include:

  • Constipation
  • Irritation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pains
  • Tiredness
  • Memory loss
  • Headaches
  • Weakness
  • Pain/tingling in the hands or/and feet 

Even low levels of lead poisoning can be harmful to children. For babies, this poisoning can cause developmental delays of the nervous system, cause behavioral issues, and intellectual delays.

BBL – Blood Lead Levels

If you believe your child may have lead poisoning, you should take them to see a doctor and request a blood test. In recent years, tests that show less than 10 micrograms per deciliter (μg/dL) were not of concern. 

But now that we know the severe consequences of lead poisoning, doctors now grow concerned and inform parents if their child’s lead levels are above five micrograms per deciliter. 

This change was a recommendation from a committee for the CDC (Center for Disease Control) based on the population of one to five-year-old children at the top 2.5% of all children tested for lead poisoning. 

Most experts feel that children do not need medical treatment unless the blood lead levels (BBL) are above 45 μg/dL. To treat lead poison, your doctor may recommend chelation therapy. 

Lead Surveillance

To keep up with lead poisoning cases and identify children at risk, the CDC provides 35 state health departments funding to use blood lead surveillance systems. 

In exchange for this funding, the state and local grantees have to supply their data to the CDC quarterly. However, for states that do not receive funding, they voluntarily share lead poisoning statistics by state. Numerous states do not receive funding or provide statistical data.

Out of the 29 states that receive grants, 27 of them have laws that require reports from clinical laboratories for all BLLs to be sent to state health departments. There are no such laws in Kentucky or Indiana, which also receive state funding.

States that receive grants and provide statistical reports on childhood lead levels include these 29:

  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Arizona
  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Georgia
  • Michigan
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • Mississippi
  • Minnesota
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • Nex Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • New York State
  • Oregon
  • Ohio
  • Rhode Island
  • Oklahoma
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin
  • Washington
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia
  • Washington, DC

These states provide annual reports of blood lead testing, follow up data for children with high BLLs, recommended interventions in high-risk locations, and the identification, management, and reduction plans for lead hazards. 

Each of these states handles individual databases and send their de-identified data to the CDC, where it goes into the national database. They collect data from labs (private and public), housing authorities, environmental protection agencies, and education agencies at the state and local levels.

Lead Poisoning by State

This chart displays the number of childhood lead poisonings for children under 72 months of age (1-5-year-olds), broken down by each state. This chart will show:

  • Total Population of Children < 72 Months of Age        
  • Number of Children Tested < 72 Months of Age        
  • Percentage of Children Tested < 72 Months of Age
  • Children with Confirmed BLLs ≥ 5 µg/dL        
  • Children with Confirmed BLLs ≥ 10 µg/dL 

We’ve provided data for the 29 states that receive CDC funding and some states that offer voluntary statistics. Some states will have N/A, which means there are no records kept for lead poisoning cases. In these cases, reach out to your local or state health department.

State Total Population Number Tested Percentage tested Confirmed BLLs≥ 5 µg/dL    Confirmed BLLs ≥ 10 µg/dL 
Alabama 352,950 36,394 10.3% 382 120
Alaska 62,956 4,831 2.7% 146 31
Arizona 525,734 61,223 11.6% 164 43
Arkansas N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
California N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Colorado 406,560 26,782 6.6% 260 64
Connecticut 227,495 74,401 32.7% 1,610 488
Delaware 66,924 7,827 11.7% 104 19
D.C 50,280 17,668 35.1% 128 35
Florida 1,295,134 177,753 13.7% 2,946 306
Georgia 802,436 106,010 13.2% 501 133
Hawaii N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Idaho N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Illinois 948,658 110,461 11.6% 3,313 1,261
Indiana 506,397 49,859 9.8% 821 260
Iowa 238,018 47,155 19.8% 3,045 300
Kansas 243,692 24,228 9.9% 538 138
Kentucky 330,743 10,719 3.2% 80 23
Louisiana 371,818 19,022 5.1% 181 83
Maine 78,691 13,146 16.7% 318 78
Maryland 441,409 132,024 29.9% 1,532 341
Massachusetts 437,094 208,880 47.8% 2,857 618
Michigan 695,457 145,209 20.9% 2,415 644
Minnesota 422,543 92,558 21.9% 556 148
Mississippi 231,770 40,191 17.3% 200 50
Missouri 450,038 83,780 18.6% 1,619 444
Montana N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Nebraska N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Nevada N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
New Hampshire 78,826 17,507 22.2% 358 102
New Jersey 636,231 172,523 27.1% 3,634 831
New Mexico 159,135 11,822 7.4% 71 9
New York 1,405,074 210,567 15% 5,923 1,764
North Carolina 732,144 109,910 15% 751 209
North Dakota N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Ohio 839,932 160,031 19.1% 4,702 1,436
Oklahoma 318,998 52,454 16.4% 538 141
Oregon N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Pennsylvania 858,963 144,351 16.8% 7,447 1,736
Rhode Island 65,906 25,352 38.5% 815 175
South Carolina N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
South Dakota N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Tennessee 485,490 85,083 17.5% 349 99
Texas N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Utah N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Vermont 36,431 9,761 26.8% 157 61
Virginia N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Washington 536,873 23,880 4.4% 185 48
West Virginia 121,783 18,133 14.9% 201 54
Wisconsin 409,803 89,25 21.8% 1,994 672
Wyoming N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

States that Don’t Report to the CDC

Despite the dangers of lead poisoning in children, some states do not share their lead test results with the CDC, making it difficult to determine the actual number of early childhood lead poisoning cases. 

Lead testing is not a legal requirement for most states, so many children are left undiagnosed, resulting in inaccurate results on the number of children that experience lead poisoning. 

It’s believed that 70% of poisoned children will not get tested or treated for lead poison, particularly in the western and southern states.

Currently, twelve states do not participate in sharing their data. These are:

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Wyoming

10 Best States for Low Lead Poisoning Levels

Out of all the states that report blood lead poisoning levels, these ten states have the lowest reported numbers of children with BLL above 5 µg/dL.

  1. Arizona (0.3% ≥5 µg/dL, and 0.1% ≥10 µg/dL)
  2. Tennessee (0.4%≥5 µg/d, and 0.1%≥10 µg/dL
  3. New Mexico (0.5%≥5 µg/dL and 0.1%≥10 µg/dL)
  4. Mississippi (0.5%≥5 µg/d, and 0.5%≥10 µg/dL)
  5. Minnesota (0.6%≥5 µg/dL, and 0.2%≥10 µg/dL)
  6. District of Columbia (0.7%≥5 µg/dL, and 0.2%≥10 µg/dL)
  7. North Carolina (0.7%≥5 µg/d, and 0.2%≥10 µg/dL)
  8. Kentucky (0.7%≥5 µg/d, and 0.2%≥10 µg/dL)
  9. Washington (0.8%≥5 µg/d, and 0.2%≥10 µg/dL)
  10. Alabama (1.0%Kentucky (0.7%≥5 µg/d, and 0.3%≥10 µg/dL)

10 Worst States for Low Lead Poisoning Levels

Here are the top ten states with the highest lead levels among children under six years of age.

  1. Pennsylvania (5.2%≥5 µg/d, and 1.2%≥10 µg/dL)
  2. Rhode Island (3.2%≥5 µg/d, and 0.7%≥10 µg/dL)
  3. Illinois (3.0%≥5 µg/d, and 1.1%≥10 µg/dL)
  4. Ohio (2.9%≥5 µg/d, and 0.9%≥10 µg/dL)
  5. New York – excluding NYC (2.8%≥5 µg/d, and 0.8%≥10 µg/dL)
  6. Wisconsin (2.2%≥5 µg/d, and 0.8%≥10 µg/dL)
  7. Connecticut (2.2%≥5 µg/d, and 0.7%≥10 µg/dL)
  8. New Jersey (2.1%≥5 µg/d, and 0.5%≥10 µg/dL)
  9. New Hampshire (2.0%≥5 µg/d, and 0.6%≥10 µg/dL)
  10. Missouri (1.9%≥5 µg/d, and 0.5%≥10 µg/dL)

Causes of Lead Poisoning

There are different causes of lead poisoning, such as: 

Lead Paint

At one point, the primary cause of lead poisoning occurred due to lead-based paint. Once experts realized the dangers, manufacturers stopped producing lead paint, which helped lower lead poisoning statistics.

Lead Gasoline

Gasoline also used to contain lead. But now, gasoline is lead-free, or unleaded, if we’re going by what you see at the pump. The next time you stop at a gas station to fill up, say a silent thank you to the experts who made it safe for you to pump gas without getting poisoned.

Water Pipes

Another common source of lead poisoning that is still an ongoing problem in the US right up to 2021 is water pipes. Before 1980, most of the United States’ water systems used lead piping for our drinking water.

Thankfully, many places have replaced these hazardous lines with suitable, safe alternatives. But there are over six million lead pipes still being used around the country, putting over 10 million Americans at risk. 

Cases of Lead in Public Water Systems

An expose completed by USA Today discovered 2,000 public water systems throughout the US that contain higher lead levels than recommended. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) limits how much lead a system can have without being harmful. 

This limit is 15 parts per billion. Out of those 2,000 systems, 350 of these provide water to daycares and elementary schools. There are records of schools in Portland, Oregon having to shut off their water fountains due to high lead levels. 

And one school in Pennsylvania faced a lawsuit for not treating high lead levels in the drinking water for months on end. 

Most Americans were unaware of the lead poisoning crisis due to poisonous water pipes. But that all changed when a public water infrastructure system failed in Flint, Michigan. Suddenly, lead pipes were in the news, and all levels of the government, from local to federal, were in hot water. 

Who’s At Risk?

Low-income neighborhoods and older homes built before the 1950s have higher risks of causing lead poisoning. Many of these houses are in the Midwest and Northeast of the country, explaining the higher number of lead poisoning cases in children in these areas. It’s believed there are high numbers in the south as well but that a large number of these go unreported.

You may be wondering why lead pipes are still used in some parts of the country, despite the knowledge of the dangers of lead poisoning. 

The answer is simple – money. Civil engineers have determined that it would cost over one trillion dollars to bring all of America’s drinking water systems up to code. That figure is the total amount over 25 years.  

In Closing

If you live in an older house or a state with verified contaminated water sources, you may want to talk to your child’s doctor about having your child’s lead levels tested. All it takes is a simple prick on the finger. Many doctors recommend a lead test between the age of one and two to be safe.

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