Lead poisoning. We prefer to stay unaware, safe in the comfort of our homes, treating the issue like it never existed. That is until it comes down to haunt us, making us wish that we’d taken some basic precautions earlier. Lead replacement. A much talked about issue. Something everyone agrees is a must. But an issue that very few wish to deal with. The extra effort and costs in front of something that may or may not happen and isn’t the easiest or the most obvious to detect makes us want to push the dirt under the rug.
The Flint water crisis brought lead poisoning at the forefront of American news, and this increased the attention we pay towards testing for lead exposure. But while the Flint issue highlighted lead poisoning in old pipes, young children can be exposed to lead through all kinds of sources, ranging from paint and soil to toys and even candy. So much so that the Center for Disease Control believes that more than 0.5 million children between the ages of 1 to 5 had high levels of blood in the year 2010.
Many find lead testing to be confusing, so we decided to help you figure out all you need to know about testing for lead in children.
When to Test for Lead?
State laws and the medical industry have different opinions on when to get kids tested for lead, and whether you should have the blood levels analyzed. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, doctors should advise parents on the benefits of lead replacement and risk of having things like lead paint in the house. Blood levels should only be tested if there are reasons to believe that the child is at risk. However, state laws may require all kids to be tested for poisoning at specific ages. “Having a parent concerned tips the balance,” says Dr. Megan Sandel, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center. Simply put, parents who are worried about the issue should get their kids tested irrespective of whether they are at obvious risks or not.
The Less Painful Method May Not Be the Best
Sure, you want to save the child from the pain of a venous blood testing method, but finger-stick, heel-stick and capillary tests may not be the perfect methods for collecting blood samples. “A prick to the finger is quicker and easier,” explains Dr. Sandel as it can be difficult to find a vein to draw blood in a child, and parents might not be comfortable seeing their infants cry either Moreover, finger-sticks can be done in the field, whereas an IV test needs to be conducted in the doctor’s office. However, the downside of a finger-stick is that it can result in false positive results, something that many parents have painfully learned.
In-Office Results Vs. The Lab
One of the main differences between the two is the time taken to generate results. Doctors usually send samples to labs for analysis. The pediatrician contacts the parents when the samples are ready, and this can take up to a week. A faster method is the LeadCare II Blood Lead Test System that can offer results within minutes so that the doctor can get back to the patient while they’re waiting at the office. Courtney Lias from the FDA believes that this test can be a real boon as it offers easy access, thereby allowing for more people to get tested for lead poisoning. If the levels are high, doctors can offer immediate solutions and lead replacement ideas to remove lead from the child’s environment.
Safe Levels of Lead
No level of lead is safe for kids. Before the year 2012, the CDC believed that levels of 10 mg / dl or more should trigger screening and testing procedures and demand lead replacement strategies. However, the allowed level of lead has since dropped to 5 mg / dl. While this sounds easy, things become complicated for kids with levels below 5. Lower levels may mean that there is no lead in the child’s system as the testing is accurate within 1 – 2 points.
Many believe that we could be doing so much more to save our kids from lead poisoning, and while many things might not be possible as individuals, parents can still do a lot to protect their kids from lead poisoning. The most important thing to do is to take proper measures to remove lead from the home through lead replacement solutions, and make sure that they get their kids tested for lead when needed.