NCHH Calls for Restoration of Funding to Lead Poisoning Prevention as CDC Releases Latest Data


Report Shows More Than 535,000 Children Have High Levels and Disparities Persist

COLUMBIA, MD (April 8, 2013) – A new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  on the blood lead levels (BLLs) in children released last week shows the continued need for lead prevention and treatment programs. According to the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH), the data should result in renewed commitment and funding from Congress and industry partners.

In the first Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) and first analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data that defines children’s BLLs greater than or equal to 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) as “high,” the CDC reports that 535,000 children have high BLLs. The report further demonstrates the persistence of disparities in the BLL by factors such as race and income level.  

Lead poisoning in children continues to be a national health crisis and as the demand for investigation and treatment grows, the funding is diminishing at a rapid rate. Congress’ dramatic cuts to the CDC lead program's budget from about $29 million to $2 million in 2012 forced the CDC funding to local health departments for lead prevention and treatment programs to stop. NCHH calls on Congress to help restore funding, so state and federal programs can address the lead-related health issues, which impact everything from physical to cognitive ability.

“The effect of lead poisoning in young children is irreversible. The numbers released by the CDC are alarming and the number would be even higher if every child was tested,” said Rebecca Morley, executive director of National Center for Healthy Housing.  “It is important now more than ever that funding is restored to ensure children get the help they need and to uncover the ones that have gone undiagnosed.”

The MMWR showed children belonging to families with a low income (130% of poverty level) are more than three times as likely children in higher income families to have high blood lead levels. Non-Hispanic black children are more than twice as likely as non-Hispanic white children to have BLLs at or above 5 µg/dL. The report shows long-standing disparities persist and resources are needed in areas and communities where children are most at risk.
NCHH recognizes and is acting on the intense work that is needed to stop lead exposure in homes and from other sources. It is imperative that the CDC renew its commitment to funding prevention by fueling enforcement of environmental health laws, helping to target housing officials’ attention to the blocks and neighborhoods and property owners posing greatest risk, shedding light on the causes and solutions. Environmental justice demands more knowledge of and accountability for how children are exposed to lead.  
NCHH will continue to encourage the Obama Administration and Congress to fully fund the needed services in fiscal year 2014. It is crucial that the House supports this initiative and capitalizes on the support that has grown on the Senate side under the leadership of Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Tom Harkin (D-IA).

The full MMWR report  is available here.

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