New York Times: What to know about lead exposure in children

UC expert comments on how concerned parents should be

Recently, an outbreak of lead poisoning from cinnamon in applesauce has brought attention to the toxic effect the heavy metal can have on children. The cinnamon in the applesauce was thought to have been intentionally contaminated, possibly to add to its value as a commodity sold by weight.

The three children’s applesauce products found to contain toxic levels of lead are WanaBana apple-cinnamon fruit purée pouches, Schnucks- and Weis-brand cinnamon-flavored applesauce pouches.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the applesauce outbreak poisoned more than 400 children. Their median blood lead levels were found to be six times higher than the average seen during the height of the Flint water crisis, according to the CDC. While such poisoning cases are rare, lead is a widespread contaminant and has been under increasing scrutiny, according to the New York Times.

Kim Dietrich, PhD, of the Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences

Kim Dietrich, PhD, of the Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences/Photo/Colleen Kelley/UC Marketing + Brand

Lead exposure can go unnoticed until levels accumulate, experts say. High lead levels can lead to stomach pain, vomiting, fatigue, learning difficulties, developmental delays and even seizures.

Pediatricians recommend blood tests for infants and toddlers who live in homes built before 1978 or have other risk factors, the Times reported. Medicaid programs and some states require screening, but it is not typically advised for children older than three years of age.

While officials have said there is no safe level of lead, parents do not automatically need to worry if traces of lead show up in a child’s blood test. The average blood-lead level among young U.S. children is under one microgram per deciliter of blood.

“I don’t think they should be worried at all,” said Kim Dietrich, PhD, a professor emeritus of epidemiology and environmental health at the UC College of Medicine.

Studies finding IQ score deficits and links to ADHD tend to focus on children with levels at five and above. Some experts have even begun to question the CDC’s position that there is “no safe level” of lead, given its ubiquitous nature and the minor effects that low levels have had on millions of children in the United States.

Read the entire story here.  

Lead image/FDA via AP

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