Half of PA children not tested for lead poisoning: report

Half of Pennsylvania kids are not getting tested for lead by their second birthday, despite CDC guidelines. There is no safe level of lead in a child’s system; exposure to lead, even at low levels, can cause intellectual, behavioral, and academic deficits. The earlier lead poisoning is detected, the more effective the treatment.

The troubling reality that 50% of children under two are going untested was revealed in the PA Department of Health’s (DOH) new, important  Childhood Lead Testing and Poisoning Report: Pennsylvania Birth Cohort Analysis.

Other findings for children under two include:

  • Black children are poisoned by lead at rates more than twice that of White children.
  • Latinx children are poisoned by lead at rates 1.5 times greater than White children.
  • Black and Latinx children are disproportionately poisoned because they are more likely to live in properties built before 1970—around the time when lead in paint was finally banned for residential use.
  • Of all children tested, kids with private health insurance are more likely to be tested than kids on Medicaid—even though Medicaid requires children to be tested and private coverage does not; 4 out of 10 children on Medicaid aren’t tested even once before they turn two.
  • Lead poisoning is an urban, suburban, and rural problem.

These new revelations were released, in large part, at the urging of Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY). In 2019, PCCY’s Getting the Reporting Right: Improving PA’s Lead Poisoning Surveillance Data Sharing specifically recommended that DOH:

  • report by birth year and type of insurance,
  • provide more complete race and ethnicity data and geographic information,
  • and write a summary analysis of the data to clarify report findings for policymakers, advocates, and the general public.

All of these recommendations were included in this latest DOH report.

To view the full report, go here.


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