State health officials are seeking the public's advice on how to deal with new federal guidelines expanding the number of young children deemed at risk of harm from low-level lead exposure. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is considering whether to have local health departments follow all young children testing positive for low levels of toxic lead in their bloodstream, or to leave the least exposed youngsters to doctors and other health care providers to track.
Earlier this year, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention effectively halved its long-standing threshold for acting on low-level lead exposure in young children. The new level of 5 parts per billion potentially adds 3,500 new cases in Maryland to the 500 identified two years ago under the old, higher exposure threshold. But the CDC also cut federal aid for local and state health agencies to follow lead poisoning cases. Even small amounts of lead have been shown to cause lasting learning and behavioral problems in young children.
State health officials also are seeking public comment on whether the state should notify parents of children whose blood tests in previous years showed lead levels between 5 and 9 parts per billion and recommend those youngsters be retested. The CDC had recommended doctors contact their patients, but at least some providers have said they have no ready way of identifying those children.
The deadline for commenting is Sept. 28. For more information and directions on how to comment, go to dhmh.maryland.gov or call 410-767-6499.