Oct 13, 2021 - News

Majority of Iowa children under age 6 have lead in their blood

Percent of children with detectable blood lead levels
Reproduced from JAMA Pediatrics; Map: Axios Visuals

An estimated 76% of Iowa children under 6 years old had lead detected in their blood, according to a newly released study conducted between 2018 and 2020.

  • It's among the highest proportion in the nation, behind Nebraska (83%), Missouri (82%) and Michigan (78%). The national rate was about 51%.

Why it matters: There's no blood lead level that has been identified as safe in children, according to the CDC. Even low-level exposures can negatively affect IQ, behavior and academic achievement.

Driving the news: The study, published last month by JAMA Pediatrics, is believed to be the first national analysis into the association of lead exposure with individual- and community-level factors, Axios' Marisa Fernandez writes.

  • Researchers analyzed blood lead tests that Quest Diagnostics administered to 1.14 million U.S. children between October 2018 and February 2020.

By the numbers: The study shows 3.6% of Iowa children had blood lead levels of 5 micrograms per deciliter or greater, a standard the CDC uses to help identify elevated cases.

  • According to the IDPH, nearly 2,240 children under age 6 had elevated lead levels in 2019.

Between the lines: Children from predominantly Black or Hispanic ZIP codes were disproportionately affected, compared to those in predominantly white ZIP codes.

  • Kids from areas with pre-1950s housing had significantly higher levels.

Zoom in: The primary source for exposure in Iowa is older housing, which has a greater likelihood to contain lead paint that was common decades ago, according to the IDPH.

  • The federal government banned the commercial sale of lead-based paint in 1978.

What they're doing: The CDC recommends states adopt statewide screening plans.

But despite Iowa law, more than 23% of kids entering kindergarten last year had no record of a blood lead test, according to the IDPH.

  • Children living in rural areas had the highest likelihood of not having been tested.
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