Advisory Committee Recommends Revising Level of Lead in Blood Requiring Action



Columbia, MD (January 4, 2012) – In a decision described as “historic,” an expert advisory committee to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voted today to recommend a significant change in the level at which children are considered to have too much lead in their blood. The change will increase the number of children requiring medical care and follow-up environmental services from less than 100,000 to 450,000.

Currently, CDC recommends action at a blood lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter. The new reference value, which is based on population blood lead levels, would focus action on those children with the highest blood lead levels (i.e. those above the 97.5th percentile). The revised value would be 5 micrograms per deciliter.  

The ACCLLP statement also underscores the need to focus on prevention, since the damage caused by lead poisoning is irreversible. Older housing with lead-based paint, and the dust and soil it generates, are the key sources of exposure for children.  

Perry Gottesfeld, executive director of Occupational Knowledge International and ACCLPP work group co-chair said, “Policy makers must now focus on establishing a credible response to children that are exposed to lead at these much lower levels that we know impact learning and behavior.”

Families can prevent exposures by keeping homes “lead-safe,” and agencies can help eliminate lead poisoning by enforcing new EPA regulations requiring the use of lead-safe work practices during home renovation and repairs and targeting resources to high risk families and communities.

Megan Sandel, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Public Health at Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health said, “This is an essential step in protecting all U.S. children from adverse effects of low level lead exposure. The time is now to invest in primary prevention of lead exposure as an investment in our future."  

The President’s 2012 budget proposed cutting CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program and its Asthma Control Program by 50%. Congress passed a final budget in December cutting the program from $29 million in 2011, to just $2 million.

“Congress’ decision to cut CDC’s budget couldn’t come at a worse time—lead poisoning is a winnable battle, but not with a 94% cut in funding,” said Rebecca Morley, executive director of the National Center for Healthy Housing.

Elevated blood lead levels are associated with decreased academic achievement, cognition problems, increased incidence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and other behavior problems.

“The Committee made a historic decision in advising CDC to act on the increasing evidence of adverse consequences for children of levels of lead in the blood well below the previous CDC level of concern,” said Deborah Cory-Slechta, Professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and co-chair of the work group.


The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) is the only national scientific and technical non-profit organization dedicated to creating healthy and safe homes for America’s children through practical and proven steps. NCHH develops scientifically valid and practical strategies to make homes safe from hazards, to alert low- income families about housing-related health risks, and to help them protect their children.

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