Lead screenings in Maine

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Why This Indicator Matters

According to the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, protecting children from exposure to lead is important to lifelong good health. There is no safe level of lead in a person’s blood. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. The most important step parents, doctors, and others can take is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs.  CDC Fact Sheet on elevated lead levels in children

Maine law implemented in June 2019 requires blood lead tests for all children at 1 and 2 years of age. The latest federal CDC guidelines reduced the blood reference value (BLRV)—the measure used to determine when interventions are needed—from 5 μg/dL to 3.5 μg/dL as even lower levels are now understood as unsafe.
      What the data shows:
In 2020, 63.6% of Maine's children ages 12-24 months were screened for blood lead, up from 51.2% in 2018 before the law took effect.  The 8,044 children screened in 2020 was nearly 1,600 more children than 2018, even though getting screened was more difficult in 2020 due to the pandemic. Not every county increased participation, however.  Androscoggin, Franklin and Washington Counties had lower rates in 2020 than in 2018.

For 2020, Oxford County achieved the highest level at 86.4% of children ages 12- 24 months screened for blood lead. Three other counties – Aroostook (75.9%), Washington (73.0%), and Hancock (70.2%) had rates above 70% of children in the age group. Counties with rates under 50% included Piscataquis, (23.3%), Sagadahoc, (42.8%), Waldo (42.5%), Lincoln (45.3%) and Sagadahoc (47.3%).
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Definitions: Children can be given a blood test to measure the level of lead in their blood. This measure shows the number and percent of lead screenings for children ages 12 -24 months as that is the recommended time for the screening. For percent of screenings, the numerator is the estimated number of children ages 12 -24 month who received lead screenings and the denominator is the number of children ages 12 -24 months. Note that a blood lead test is considered a "screening test" only when a child has no prior history of a confirmed blood lead at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dL). 

Data Source: Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, Maine Tracking Network

Footnotes: The latest federal CDC guidelines reduced the blood reference value (BLRV)—the measure used to determine when interventions are needed—from 5 μg/dL to 3.5 μg/dL as even lower levels are now understood as unsafe, however, the data through 2020 does not use this newer threshold.

Updated October 2022.