Although banned from house paints in 1978, lead-based paint in deteriorating housing remains the major source of childhood lead poisoning today, he said.
Lead is also found in some art supplies and imported toys, old painted toys, household pipes and faucets, certain hobby equipment and miniature lead figures. The metal can enter children's bodies if they touch these items and put their fingers in their mouths, or swallow the items.
Damage from lead exposure is irreversible. "It affects memory, learning, being able to sit, listen and learn in school, abstract thinking, planning, organization, communication skills and fine motor skills," Rosen said.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health recently endorsed similar recommendations about blood lead levels.
The new CDC standard will push health departments and housing departments around the country to improve code enforcement and focus on the only cure for lead poisoning, which is primary prevention, Norton said. "There is no drug, no treatment that reverses the impact of lead poisoning," she added.
The problem with lead paint has lingered for decades, experts said.
"There will not be an end until there is a federal mandate to totally de-lead all pre-1960 housing," Rosen said. He emphasized that de-leading of a home should only be done by a licensed lead-removal contractor, as is required by law.
For more on lead poisoning, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: John F. Rosen, M.D., professor of pediatrics, and division head, environmental sciences, Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center, New York City; Ruth Ann Norton, executive director, Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, Baltimore;
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