October 28, 2021

CDC Lowers Blood Lead Reference Value for Children

CDC has lowered the blood lead reference value (BLRV) for children from 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood to 3.5 µg/dL, the agency announced in the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The BLRV is intended to identify children with blood lead levels that are higher than most children’s levels. According to CDC, this reference value is based on the 97.5th percentile of blood lead values among U.S. children aged 1 to 5 years from data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The initial BLRV of 5 µg/dL was established in 2012 and was based on data from the 2007–2008 and 2009–2010 NHANES cycles. The updated BLRV of 3.5 µg/dL uses NHANES data derived from 2015–2016 and 2017–2018. The new BLRV indicates that 2.5 percent of young children in the U.S. have blood lead levels greater than or equal to 3.5 µg/dL.

“The BLRV should be used as a guide to empower public health partners to determine whether medical or environmental follow-up actions should be initiated for an individual child with BLLs between 3.5 and 5 µg/dL who previously would not have been recommended to receive these services until their BLL reached 5 µg/dL,” CDC’s report explains.

Further details are available from CDC’s website.

This week, Oct. 24–30, CDC is observing National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, which focuses on increasing lead poisoning prevention awareness to reduce childhood exposure to lead. A new NIOSH Science Blog post published on Monday focuses on the use of lead in the workplace and efforts by NIOSH and CDC to control lead exposure among workers and their families.