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Overseas Lead Exposures Identified for U.S.-Bound Refugee Children

1/16/2012

Refugee children who settle in the U.S. are known to have a higher risk of elevated blood lead levels than U.S.-born children, but the prevalence and risk factors overseas have not been documented. 

In a new study, "Lead Poisoning in United States-Bound Refugee Children: Thailand-Burma Border, 2009," in the February 2012 Pediatrics (published online Jan. 16), researchers tested blood lead levels from children aged 6 months to 14 years from refugee camps on the Thailand-Burma border. Of 642 children, 33 (5.1 percent) had elevated blood lead levels, with the highest prevalence (14.5 percent) in children younger than 2 years. Risk factors included anemia, exposure to car batteries and taking traditional medicines.  Among children <6 years old, the prevalence of elevated blood levels in these refugee children was seven times higher than U.S. children. Elevated blood lead levels can cause long-term harm to a child's development. Authors conclude that measures should be taken to protect Burmese and other refugee children from exposure to lead, in camps and after resettlement in the U.S.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.