The state of Vermont plans to lower the threshold at which government gets involved when lead is found in the bloodstream of children, calling lead poisoning a pervasive problem that retards growth and contributes to a variety of health problems.
The change would increase from about 300 to about 3,000 the number of children in Vermont with what are considered to be dangerous levels of lead in their blood, Attorney General William Sorrell said Thursday.
“This is not an isolated health problem,” Sorrel said. “This is pervasive across the state.”
Lead is most prevalent in buildings built before 1978, when lead paint was banned, but it can also be found in other products, officials said. About 60 percent of lead poisoning occurs in rental housing, officials said.
Lead poisoning can reduce a child’s IQ, cause problems with attention, motor skills, social behavior, immune system problems and, in girls, delayed puberty.
Exposure to even small amounts can reduce a child’s IQ, said Dr. Bruce Lanphear, director of the Cincinnati Children’s Environmental Health Center, who appeared with state officials at a news conference at which a report titled “Get the Lead Out” was released.
“There is no safe level of lead in blood,” said Lanphear. “Moreover, at the lowest levels of exposure… we see dramatic reductions in the intellectual ability of children.”
The National Centers for Disease Control has set a level of 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood as the point of concern. Children found with more than that are assigned a Health Department case worker in hopes of reducing their exposure to lead.
But the state is going to reduce that level to five micrograms per deciliter, becoming the first in the nation to do so, Sorrell said. Children found with lead levels between five and nine micrograms would get educational materials sent to their homes and be offered additional services. The owners of their homes, meanwhile, would be required to bring the buildings into compliance with Vermont’s lead law.
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