TESTING AND SCREENING CHILDREN FOR ELEVATED BLOOD LEAD
Screening for elevated blood lead is necessary to confirm exposure, because often the symptoms of childhood lead poisoning can be difficult or impossible to recognize. These effects can include reduced IQ and attention span, hyperactivity, reading and learning difficulties, and hearing loss. A test to determine a child's blood lead level is usually the only way to know if a child is exposed to lead. Screening is performed using a blood lead test, in which a small sample of blood is taken from a child, via a fingerstick or by drawing blood from a vein. The blood sample is then analyzed by special equipment that determines the amount of lead in the child's blood.
Regardless of where they live, all children enrolled in Medicaid must receive lead screening. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the federal agency that oversees the Medicaid program, requires blood lead screening for all children enrolled in Medicaid at 12 and 24 months, and for any child 36-72 months of age who has no record of prior screening. For children not enrolled in Medicaid, CDC recommends that, because the risk for lead exposure is high in some places and low in others, state health departments examine information on exposure sources and blood lead levels in their states and decide on how blood lead screening should be conducted for children who are state residents. To find out your state's policy on lead screening, contact the state health department program.
More information on the above surveys is available from the CDC. The CDC report Update: Blood Lead Levels -- United States, 1991-1994 explains the relationships between lead poisoning and risk factors such as age of housing, income, race and other factors
For more information on lead screening and follow-up care, contact the CDC. For more information on state programs to identify and help children with elevated blood lead levels, see the listing of state programs available from the National Council of State Legislatures.
See also the Alliance for Healthy Homes' Another Link in the Chain and the National Center for Lead-Safe Housing.