Nation

Lead poisoning affects 500,000 children in US, officials say

NEW YORK — More than half a million US children are now believed to have lead poisoning, about twice the previous high estimate, health officials reported Thursday.

The rise is the result of the government last year lowering the threshold for lead poisoning, so now more children are considered at risk.

Advertisement

Too much lead can harm developing brains and can mean a lower IQ. Lead poisoning used to be a much larger concern in the United States, but has declined significantly as lead was removed from paint, gasoline, and other sources.

The new number translates to about 1 in 38 young children. That estimate suggests a need for more testing and preventive measures, some specialists said, but budget cuts last year eliminated federal grant funding for such programs.

Get Breaking News in your inbox:
Find out about important news stories as soon as they break
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Those cuts represent ‘‘an abandonment of children,’’ said David Rosner, a Columbia University public health historian who writes on lead poisoning.

‘‘We’ve been acting like the problem was solved,’’ he added.

Lead can harm a child’s brain, kidneys, and other organs. High levels in the blood can cause coma, convulsions, and death. Lower levels can reduce intelligence .

Advertisement

Most cases of lead poisoning are handled by tracking and removing the source, and monitoring the children to make sure lead levels stay down.

Often, children who get lead poisoning live in old houses. They pick up and eat paint chips. Children have also picked up lead poisoning from soil contaminated by old leaded gasoline, from dust tracked in from industrial worksites, from tainted drinking water.

Lead has been banned in household paint since 1978 and was gone from gasoline by the late 1980s.

Loading comments...
You're reading  1 of 5 free articles.
Get UNLIMITED access for only 99¢ per week Subscribe Now >
You're reading1 of 5 free articles.Keep scrolling to see more articles recomended for you Subscribe now
We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles.
Continue reading by subscribing to Globe.com for just 99¢.
 Already a member? Log in Home
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.