Lead poisoning, the main cause of concern with the Flint Water Crisis, can lead to serious medical and neurological conditions, especially in children, when left untreated.

This is why a study published in the journal Pediatrics on April 27, which reveals that several states have not been doing a good job when it comes to addressing childhood lead poisoning, is a very alarming wake-up call to state governments.

Childhood Lead Poisoning

Children are at a higher risk of lead poisoning since their bodies have a higher rate of absorption and also because children's brains are still quickly developing. This is why it is important that children, especially those who are 6 years old and below, should be tested for elevated blood lead levels (EBLL) — defined as 10 µg/dL and higher.

A research team from the Public Health Institute, however, went over data of reported childhood lead poisoning incidences from 1999 to 2010 and found that only about 607,000 cases were identified and treated from the 944,000 cases that occurred.

The worse part is that the researchers believe that there were about 1.2 million cases that actually occurred during the given time frame. The worst part is that the numbers could be even higher since not all states reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Facts And Figures

Researchers found that only 39 states had available reported data on childhood lead poisoning during the years 1999 to 2010. Of those 39 states, more than half of the reported children with EBLL were not diagnosed in 23 states.

On a national level, only about 64 percent of children with EBLL were identified and reported to the CDC.

The research also shows that about 78 percent of childhood lead poisoning cases were missed by Southern states, and Western states miss about 75 percent. The report also shows that five states identified less than 1 percent of lead poisoning cases in children, and Washington is at the tail end, with only 2 percent of cases identified.

Preventing The Preventable

Eric Roberts, MD, PhD, and co-principal investigator of the study, says that the numbers are alarmingly high, especially since lead poisoning is very much preventable. He also urged physicians to be more vigilant with testing children and educating parents.

"Without the true numbers, we can't help the children who have been poisoned, or root out how and why so many children are being poisoned in the first place ... As long as the current system of lead testing is in place, large numbers of children will continue to be poisoned and no one will know about it," Dr. Roberts says.

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