By Ann Fiala, RN, BSN, CPHRM, CHC, Coverys Senior Risk Consultant

Lead toxicity among children in the United States has been a public health issue for decades, and statistics show the problem is widespread with: Following are tips to help you enhance your lead screening and testing protocols.
  1. Broaden screening criteria. While screening standards should reflect what we know about the socioeconomics of lead poisoning—a disproportionate number of the more than 500,000 children estimated to have elevated lead levels are black, migrants, refugees, foreign adopted, and/or on Medicaid—there are other factors to consider. For example: an increasing trend to purchase and renovate older homes has exposed children from all walks of life to lead-based paint, drinking water tainted with lead, and other sources of toxicity.  
  2. Implement a smart screening strategy. At annual check-ups with pediatric patients (particularly those aged six and younger), ask the parent or guardian the questions below. If they answer “yes” to any of these questions, the child should receive a blood test to measure his or her lead level. Because there is a potential for exposure to infants in utero, OB/GYNs should ask pregnant patients similar questions.
    1. Does your child live in or regularly visit homes built before 1950?
    2. Does your child live in or regularly visit a home built before 1978 that has had recent or ongoing renovation?
    3. Does your child have a sibling or playmate who has had lead poisoning?
    4. Does your child spend time with an adult whose job exposes him or her to lead? (Examples: construction, painting, metalwork.)
  3. Your zip code matters. Find out if your medical practice is located in or near a high-risk zip code (most states maintain such zip code lists, which are available online). And consider whether there’s more you can do to partner with public health and parents to address risk in your broader community.
Pediatricians and family physicians are necessary and important members of a larger team needed to address lead exposure. Remaining vigilant about screening and testing for lead among pediatric patients will make a meaningful difference in the health of countless children. For more information, please refer to our article Pediatric Lead Testing.
No legal or medical advice intended. This post includes general risk management guidelines. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal or medical developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal or medical advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances.