6 US regions where children have unsafe blood lead levels

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New research shows at least one in every seven U.S. children has levels of lead in their blood that would qualify as dangerous, potentially leading to lifelong physical, mental and behavioral health problems, Reuters reports.

The CDC defines "unsafe" blood lead levels as five micrograms or more of lead per deciliter of blood. Based on the new study — which included 5.2 million blood tests for infants and children under 6 years of age over a six-year period ending in April 2015 — 3.1 percent of boys and 2.8 percent of girls had blood lead levels exceeding the CDC's definition.

The study also identified six regions where more than 14 percent of the children tested had unsafe blood levels. They are listed alphabetically below.

  • Buffalo, N.Y.
  • Cincinnati
  • Oil City, Pa.
  • Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
  • Syracuse, N.Y.
  • York, Pa.

According to study author Harvey Kaufman, MD, many of the six cities are old, industrial cities.

"There are many reasons why these localities could have the highest percentage of children who test with elevated blood lead levels, including more old housing stock, higher poverty rates and possibly fewer resources for remediation of older housing," Dr. Kaufman told Reuters via email.

The study also ranked the states with the largest proportion of tests indicating high blood levels. The top five states were Minnesota (10.3 percent), Pennsylvania (7.8 percent), Kentucky (7.1 percent), Ohio (7.0 percent) and Connecticut (6.7 percent).

Read the full study in The Journal of Pediatrics.



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