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Experts Endorse Lower Lead-Poisoning Threshold
Date:1/6/2012

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.

Dr. Vikas Kapil, chief medical officer of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, said it will be several months before the CDC decides to accept or reject the committee's recommendation.

"We have been looking at the issue of lead levels in kids for some time," Kapil said. In 2005, the CDC asked the committee to see if a change was needed, but at that time there wasn't sufficient evidence to recommend a change, he said.

"We asked the committee to look again at the evidence in late 2010, and this most recent recommendation is the outcome," he added. "There is a growing body of evidence about blood lead levels below 10 that are associated with adverse health impacts in kids. We don't want clinicians to see 10 as a safe level."

The U.S. National Institutes of Health recently endorsed similar recommendations about blood lead levels, Kapil said.

If adopted by the CDC, the new standard would 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, these 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.

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