Children age 6 and younger may need to be re-tested if they had a faulty lead test
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), following recommendations
from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is urging parents of children ages 6 and younger who received a venous blood test for lead (in which blood is drawn from the arm), to discuss with their child's pediatrician whether a new test is needed. This recommendation follows a warning
issued today by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about a specific kind of venous blood lead test conducted using Magellan LeadCare Testing Systems that has been found to underestimate the amount of lead in blood samples.
"Pediatricians work every day to ensure children can grow up healthy and thrive, and part of how we do that is to screen and test for lead exposure in children," said Fernando Stein, MD, FAAP, president of the AAP. "Most children are tested for lead poisoning with a finger or heel stick, which is not impacted by today's warning. Parents of children age 6 and younger who have had a venous blood lead test, meaning blood was drawn from their arm, should talk with their pediatrician about whether their child needs to be re-tested. The AAP will work with our pediatrician members to provide those families impacted by today's warning with the resources and guidance they need to protect their children from lead exposure."
Lead poisoning is usually detected by measuring the level of lead in blood. The most common way children's blood is tested for lead is through a finger or heel stick known as a capillary test. If the results show elevated lead levels, they need to be confirmed through a venous test. Children ages 6 and younger whose results were 10 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) or lower from this particular faulty venous test may need to be re-tested.
Children in at least 4 million households are exposed to high lead levels, according to the CDC. Low-level lead exposure, even at blood lead concentrations below 5 µg/dL, can increase the risk of intellectual and academic disabilities in children, and is linked to higher rates of neurobehavioral disorders such as hyperactivity and attention deficits, and lower birth weight.
"There is no safe level of lead exposure for children, and the best 'treatment' for lead poisoning is to prevent lead exposure before it happens," said Jennifer Lowry, MD, FAAP, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health. "Pediatricians have an important role to play by asking questions about a family's risk for lead exposure. Children can be exposed to lead in a variety of ways, such as living in an older home or a home undergoing renovations, or in a home with lead pipes. Certain toys, hobbies and parents' occupations also increase the risk that a child could be exposed to lead, so it's important to talk with your pediatrician about how to lower your child's risk."
Preventing lead exposure is the most reliable and cost-effective measure to protect children from lead poisoning, according to the AAP. Treatment for children with high levels of lead in their blood is to remove them from the environment that poses the hazard, such as older buildings.
"While today's warning is a reminder about the importance of lead testing to diagnose and treat children who have been exposed to lead, we can and must to more to prevent lead poisoning in the first place," said Dr. Stein. "The AAP calls for stronger federal funding for lead poisoning surveillance and investigations, expanded support for local and state governments to remove lead hazards from children's homes, and stronger federal standards that will truly protect children."
Below are additional resources for parents, pediatricians and other health care professionals:
- FDA warning about the faulty lead test
- CDC recommendations based on today's warning
- AAP News article: "FDA: Blood lead tests may have been inaccurate"
- AAP News article: "Prevention is best protection against childhood lead poisoning"
- HealthyChildren.org information for parents about protecting children from lead exposure
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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 66,000 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. For more information, visit www.aap.org