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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:
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pains
- Memory loss
- 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.
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:
- New Jersey
- New Hampshire
- Nex Mexico
- North Carolina
- New York State
- Rhode Island
- 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|
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:
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
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.
- Arizona (0.3% ≥5 µg/dL, and 0.1% ≥10 µg/dL)
- Tennessee (0.4%≥5 µg/d, and 0.1%≥10 µg/dL
- New Mexico (0.5%≥5 µg/dL and 0.1%≥10 µg/dL)
- Mississippi (0.5%≥5 µg/d, and 0.5%≥10 µg/dL)
- Minnesota (0.6%≥5 µg/dL, and 0.2%≥10 µg/dL)
- District of Columbia (0.7%≥5 µg/dL, and 0.2%≥10 µg/dL)
- North Carolina (0.7%≥5 µg/d, and 0.2%≥10 µg/dL)
- Kentucky (0.7%≥5 µg/d, and 0.2%≥10 µg/dL)
- Washington (0.8%≥5 µg/d, and 0.2%≥10 µg/dL)
- 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.
- Pennsylvania (5.2%≥5 µg/d, and 1.2%≥10 µg/dL)
- Rhode Island (3.2%≥5 µg/d, and 0.7%≥10 µg/dL)
- Illinois (3.0%≥5 µg/d, and 1.1%≥10 µg/dL)
- Ohio (2.9%≥5 µg/d, and 0.9%≥10 µg/dL)
- New York – excluding NYC (2.8%≥5 µg/d, and 0.8%≥10 µg/dL)
- Wisconsin (2.2%≥5 µg/d, and 0.8%≥10 µg/dL)
- Connecticut (2.2%≥5 µg/d, and 0.7%≥10 µg/dL)
- New Jersey (2.1%≥5 µg/d, and 0.5%≥10 µg/dL)
- New Hampshire (2.0%≥5 µg/d, and 0.6%≥10 µg/dL)
- 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:
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.
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.
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.
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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