Lead poisoning

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Why This Indicator Matters

There is no safe blood lead level. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control uses a reference level of 5 µg/dL to identify children whose blood lead levels are higher than 97.5% of all U.S. children's levels. The number of children with estimated confirmed ≥5 µg/dL blood lead levels is calculated as the sum of those with confirmed blood lead levels ≥5 µg/dL and a proportion of those having unconfirmed blood lead levels ≥5 µg/dL. Lead poisoning—elevated levels of lead in one’s blood—is a serious health hazard, and low-income children in poorly-resourced communities are at highest risk. Thanks to effective federal and state policies, lead poisoning has dropped dramatically in Massachusetts.
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Definitions: The number of children ages 9-47 months with either confirmed or unconfirmed blood lead levels of ≥5 µg/dL.

Data Source: Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, Screening and Prevalence Statistics, Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Footnotes: The Dept. of Public Health notes that these results include both confirmed and unconfirmed blood lead specimens. A confirmed blood lead specimen is either a single venous blood lead specimen of any value, or the higher of two capillary blood lead specimens ≥10 µg/dL drawn within 12 weeks of each other. A single capillary blood lead specimen of any value is considered unconfirmed. The Massachusetts Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program recommends but does not require confirmation of capillary blood lead specimens below 10 µg/dL, so capillary blood lead specimens between 5 and 9 µg/dL are usually unconfirmed. Because of the unreliability of certain types of blood tests, the number of children estimated confirmed ≥5 µg/dL blood lead levels is calculated as the sum of those with confirmed blood lead levels ≥5 µg/dL and a proportion of those having as-yet unconfirmed blood lead levels ≥5 µg/dL pending retest.