Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Many Children Left Untested For Lead

Since the Flint water crisis made its way into national headlines, lead screening and testing has become of high concern, especially testing among young children who, as you know, are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead exposure. You’ve heard about the symptoms—hyperactivity, decreased IQ, insomnia, fatigue—the list goes on.

Yet, despite this increased concern, a study conducted by the Public Health Institute of California Assessing Child Lead Poisoning Case Ascertainment in the United States between 1999 and 2010 found that in some places nearly 80% of poisoned children were unidentified. Nationally, 607,000/944,000 (64%) cases were reported to the CDC. This means the other 36% of children went undetected, with many of the reported coming from areas in the Midwest and Northeast. Not good with percentages? Here is a graphic to help. Also, according to another study conducted by Reuters, cities in some states like Wisconsin and Missouri had a poisoning rate higher than that of Flint’s.

What Accounts For The Number of Children Going Untested?
To help wrap our heads around this issue, here is a list, though not an extensive one, to help answer this questions (for more information, you can take a look here and here).

  • Low-income children covered by Medicaid are required to be tested, but research has shown compliance with such a requirement is low. As of April of this year according to the Michigan Medicaid Blood Lead Testing Report, statewide, 66% of children are tested at or on their 2nd birthday and 74% for 3 year olds. Take a look at the full report.

  • Outside of Medicaid, there are few—if any—state recommendations for blood lead testing made available to parents (Arkansas, Montana, North and South Dakota, and Wyoming). This creates confusion and leaves parents—like some of you—with many unanswered questions. How are you to know when, how, or where to get your child(ren) tested if such information is not accessible to you? 

  • States also use confusing terminology within their guidelines that makes it difficult for even medical professionals to know when testing a child is required. Put it simply, the wording is confusing. Some words gives the impression that testing should take place, while others use words like shall make it clear testing is mandatory.

  • Only 10 states plus the District of Columbia requires universal screening. With most of these states require testing for children between the ages of 1 and 2. Michigan is not one of them.

  • Some of those states with universal screening have differing requirements. Age at which testing takes place, areas where testing is required, and the number of times a child is tested are some of these differing requirements.

Should your child or grandchild be tested for lead?

A good place to start is by educating yourself and talking with your pediatrician.