Children in Some US Communities Still Have Very High Risk of Lead Poisoning Interview with:

Leland McClure, PhD Director in Medical Affairs for Quest Diagnostics Fellow of the American Board of Forensic Toxicology

Dr. Leland McClure

Leland McClure, PhD
Director in Medical Affairs for Quest Diagnostics
Fellow of the American Board of Forensic Toxicology What is the background for this study?

Dr. McClure: Quest Diagnostics is the leading provider of diagnostic information services, providing clinical lab testing to about one in three American adults each year. As a result, we’ve amassed the largest private clinical laboratory database in the United States, based on 20 billion data points from lab testing. Quest uses this data (in de-identified, HIPAA compliant form) to perform research — called Quest Diagnostics Health Trends(TM) — to reveal insights on important health issues to inform clinical patient management and health policy. Other Health Trends reports have focused on diabetes, pregnancy and influenza, among others. What are the main findings?

Dr. McClure: The most recent study examined test results of more than 5 million children under the age of 6 years. The main findings are that about 3% of these children tested had a blood lead level at or higher than the level the CDC has established as a threshold to identify children with elevated blood lead levels. In addition, some regions experienced double digits rates of high blood lead levels. In Syracuse, for instance, about 40% of the children — that’s four in ten tested — had a high blood level for lead. What should readers take away from your report?

Dr. McClure: The U.S. has made progress in reducing the burden of lead toxicity. But this public health success story is incomplete. In the Quest analysis, areas with high rates of pre-1950s housing construction and low incomes were associated with larger proportions of children with high blood lead levels. These factors pose large, ongoing challenges. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. McClure: Additional study will be necessary to ensure that improvements in reducing lead exposure continue and that specific state and local efforts, particularly in high-risk areas identified by the Quest analysis, achieve the desired goals in reducing children’s blood lead levels. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Dr. McClure: The findings from this Quest Diagnostics study reflect ongoing efforts of policy makers, healthcare providers, guardians and parents to reduce blood lead levels in our nation’s children. While the study demonstrates many successes, it also highlights the need for further efforts to reduce the risk that our nation’s children are exposed to lead. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


The Journal of Pediatrics
Available online 11 June 2016
Blood Lead Levels in Young Children: US, 2009-2015
Leland F. McClure, PhD, , Justin K. Niles, MA, Harvey W. Kaufman, MD

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on June 16, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD