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Programs to screen for lead poisoning focus on finding children or adults who are
likely to be exposed to lead. These programs, developed by the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), advise local and state agencies to
determine which geographic areas are the most likely to be at risk for lead
exposure. Age of housing is an important factor in determining risk, because
older homes tend to have
lead-based paint. If lead exposure is likely, then
blood tests for infants and young children will be recommended to measure blood
Talk to your child's doctor about whether your child
is at risk. During a routine health exam, the risk for lead exposure can be
evaluated by answering questions about family members' living and working
conditions. The doctor may then decide whether blood lead levels should be
The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety
Administration (OSHA) requires companies to test the blood of employees who
work with lead. OSHA sets industry standards to protect workers.
Adults who do not work with lead usually are not tested for
lead poisoning. If you are pregnant or trying to
become pregnant, you may want to ask
your doctor about your risk for lead poisoning. A pregnant woman who is exposed to lead can pass it to her baby (fetus). Lead can also be
passed to a baby through the mother's breast milk. The U.S. Preventive Services
(USPSTF) does not recommend routine testing of blood
lead levels in pregnant women who don't have symptoms.1
Children should be checked, no matter what
their age, if they have been exposed to lead or if they have symptoms that
could be caused by lead poisoning.
If the answers to the following
questions are "yes" or "I don't know," a
lead test may need to be done.
The USPSTF does not
State and local health departments can provide
information on testing recommendations in your area.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2006). Screening for elevated blood lead levels in children and pregnant women. Available online: http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/uspstf/uspslead.htm.
June 5, 2012
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & R. Steven Tharratt, MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology
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