One of the 10 great public health achievements in recent history is the great progress we have made in reducing childhood lead exposure.
Today at least 4 million households have children living in them that are being exposed to high levels of lead. There are approximately half a million U.S. children ages 1-5 with blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), the reference level at which CDC recommends public health actions be initiated.
No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body. Because lead exposure often occurs with no obvious symptoms, it frequently goes unrecognized. CDC’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is committed to the Healthy People 2020 goals of eliminating blood lead levels ≥ 10 µg/dL and differences in average risk based on race and social class as public health concerns.
Over the past 50 years, EPA and federal and state partners have worked together on actions that have eliminated or drastically reduced the use of lead in gasoline, paint, plumbing pipes, food cans, and a variety of other products. More recently, EPA has cleaned up lead-contaminated waste sites and established standards for dealing with lead-based paint that was used in the previous century. In addition, the public health and medical communities have worked together to increase awareness, identify populations at risk, and provide blood lead testing for communities. As a result of these collective actions, blood lead levels have declined by more than 90% since the mid-1970s.