Oct 30, 2007

Lead Poisoning: "Despite Ban, Risks Remain"

 "Massive recalls of lead-laced trinkets and lead-painted toys from China are making news these days. Mattel recalled 675,000 Barbie toys last month, including Barbie's Dream Puppy House and Kitty Condo. But for the thousands of kids sickened by lead each year in the USA, it's not Barbie's Dream House that makes them sick. It's their own house. The U.S. government banned lead paint in 1978, and U.S. oil companies began phasing out leaded gasoline in 1975. Since then, the percentage of children with high levels of lead in their blood has plummeted from 88% in the 1970s to 1.6% in 2005. It's 'one of the great triumphs in public health in this country over the last 20 to 25 years,' says Philip Landrigan of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Joel Schwartz of the Harvard School of Public Health calculated that average IQ levels nationwide have risen four to five points as a result of lower lead levels in the environment. But Landrigan and others warn that the effort hasn't wiped out lead poisoning. They consider that goal feasible: There's a broad public health effort to eliminate lead poisoning by 2010, but current estimates indicate it won't happen that soon. Nearly three decades after the paint ban, hundreds of thousands of children -- most of them under age 6 -- show signs of lead exposure. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that one in four children live in housing with deteriorated lead paint, part of a toxic legacy from generations past when less was known about the dangers of such substances." Greg Toppo reports for USA TODAY Oct. 28, 2007.

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