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Get the Lead Out
Get the Lead Out
On May 16, 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its policy on how much lead children can safely be exposed to. This decision could alter the manner in which lead-exposed children are treated, provided the government can find enough funding for a testing program.
Prior to the policy change, blood lead levels over 45 micrograms/deciliter were defined as lead poisoning, while anything between 10 µg/dl and 44 µg/dl was considered a “level of concern.” This classification gave the false impression that levels below 10 µg were safe. The CDC’s new stance is that no level of lead in human blood is low enough to be safe.
According to Christopher Portier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Because there’s no identified safe exposure level for lead in children, ‘level of concern’ is a misleading statement.”
Studies demonstrate that lower lead levels are still linked to reduced IQ, impaired attention span and poor school achievement in children. Joel Schwartz of the Harvard School of Public Health has warned that even as little as 2 µg/dl of lead lowers IQ. In an analysis on the impact of lead, he calculated that “if you lower the mean IQ of the U.S. population by one point, you lower the productivity of the economy by about 1 percent.” According to the CDC’s advisory committee, harm from low lead levels reaches “beyond cognitive function to include cardiovascular, immunological and endocrine effects.”
The 10 µg cutoff was established in 1991. The CDC says its change of position is in response to 20 years of accumulated research suggesting that any level of lead in the blood is a problem.
The CDC’s new position is that all kids are at risk of lead toxicity and should get tested now and then again every four years. Children in the top 2.5 percent of blood lead values should get priority treatment. Currently, that would be levels of 5 µg/dl or more, which the CDC says includes 450,000 children between 1 and 5 years old. This increased monitoring and focused attention will hopefully result in lower lead levels over time.
However, while the CDC’s advisory committee gave specific recommendations on how to implement this new lead policy, no new funding has been allocated to carry out the program. In the words of the CDC, actually implementing this plan “is not currently practicable.”
Dr. Schor is a graduate of the National College of Naturopathic Medicine and now practices in Denver. He served as president of the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Physicians and is now on the board of directors of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians and is recognized as a Fellow by the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology. He serves on the editorial board for the International Journal of Naturopathic Medicine. In 2008, he was awarded the Vis Award by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.His writing appears often in Natural Medicine Journal, Naturopathy Digest and Naturopathic Doctor News and Review. For more information visit www.DenverNaturopathic.com.
May 25th, 2012