Oct 7, 2021 - News

Majority of Arkansas kids have lead in their blood

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

Two-thirds of Arkansas children under age 6 had detectable lead levels in their blood, a new study from JAMA Pediatrics found.

Why it matters: Exposures are much higher in children from communities with pre-1950s housing or high poverty rates, and in those who have public insurance.

The study is the first known national analysis investigating the "association of lead exposure with individual- and community-level factors," Axios' Marisa Fernandez writes.

The big picture: A blood lead concentration as low as five micrograms per deciliter can affect the long-term cognitive development of children — and can lead to lifelong learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

By the numbers: The blood of 1.1 million children was analyzed between October 2018 and February 2020 for the study.

  • Nationally, nearly 58% of children from ZIP codes with predominantly Black neighborhoods and 56% of children from ZIP codes with predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods had detectable blood lead levels. That's compared to 49% of children from ZIP codes with primarily white residents.

Yes, but: While 66% of Arkansas children had detectable levels of lead in their blood, according to the report, 1.3% had levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter. That's considered elevated.

What they're saying: The Arkansas Department of Health oversees the state's lead-based paint program and regulates water quality and related issues.

  • A spokesperson told Axios that when elevated blood lead levels are detected, the agency works to reduce or eliminate exposure through physical removal, training and behavior changes.

As part of its drinking water program, ADH maintains a public database of test results for community water systems.

Of note: Education and awareness are key factors to curb the problem. Oct. 24 to 30 is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.


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