(HealthDay News) – Despite progress in reducing blood lead levels (BLLs) among children aged 1–5 years, disparities in those levels persist among different racial/ethnic and income groups, according to research published April 5 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

William Wheeler, MPH, of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, and Mary Jean Brown, ScD, of the National Center for Environmental Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from the periods 1999–2002 and 2007–2010 to assess the impact of preventative efforts on lead exposure in children aged 1–5 years.

According to the researchers, 2.6% of children aged 1–5 years had BLLs at or above the upper reference value of 5µg/dL, which equates to an estimated 535,000 U.S. children. The geometric mean (GM) BLLs were significantly higher in children 1–2 compared to children 3–5 years (1.5µg/dL vs. 1.2µg/dL) and in children belonging to families with poverty income ratio (PIR) <1.3 compared to PIR >1.3 (1.6µg/dL vs. 1.2µg/dL). The GM blood lead levels for non-Hispanic black children (1.8µg/dL) was also noted to be significantly higher compared with either non-Hispanic white (1.3µg/dL) or Mexican American children (1.3µg/dL).

“Disparities in the GM BLL by factors such as race/ethnicity and income level, which have been important historically, persist,” the authors write. “Resources should be targeted to areas and communities where children are most at risk to achieve the Healthy People 2020 objective of reducing mean BLLs for all children in the United States.”

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