New information reveals a lower in elevated blood lead ranges in kids within the area

Data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services shows that blood lead levels in children in St. Clair and Sanilac counties have decreased since 2020.

However, a health official said this may be due to fewer children being tested during the pandemic.

In 2020, 1,769 children in St. Clair County had their blood tested for lead. Of the children tested, 8.4% of children under the age of six had elevated blood lead levels of 3.5 micrograms per deciliter or more. This fell to 5.2% of 1,158 people tested in 2021.

The downtrend continued in Sanilac County. In 2020, 307 children were tested and 5.5% reported elevated blood lead levels of 3.5 micrograms per deciliter or more. That number fell to 4% of 321 people tested in 2021.

Liz King, the director and health officer for the St. Clair County Health Department, said one possible cause of the drop could be a drop in testing. Between 2020 and 2021, all women’s, infant and children’s services were virtual and unable to conduct lead screenings. Testing numbers for pediatricians from other primary care agencies may also have dropped during this period, she said.

“The St. Clair County Department of Health is committed to bringing the percentage of eligible children screened back to pre-pandemic numbers and expects numbers to return when WIC services transition to primarily face-to-face services switch,” King said.

Data for Michigan children with elevated blood lead levels of 3.5 micrograms per deciliter and above is now accessible online via MiTracking. Previous data had been for blood lead levels of 5 micrograms per deciliter and higher.

The data is used to identify children who need public health services and further medical examinations. The scores are also used to prioritize communities in need of lead reduction actions.

“Public health agencies, healthcare providers and the general public can access data to learn about the prevalence of children’s blood lead levels in their communities and make informed decisions about prevention efforts for childhood lead exposure,” said Dr . Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s Chief Medical Executive.

Nationwide, more than 3,400 children had an elevated blood lead level of 3.5 micrograms per deciliter and more in 2021. More than half of these children had blood lead levels of 5 micrograms per deciliter or more.

King said lead can be found all around a child. Common sources are lead-based paints in homes built before 1978, contaminated soil, certain water pipes, some candy or traditional home remedies imported from other countries, and household products such as toys or jewelry. Additionally, certain jobs and hobbies that involve working with lead-based products can result in a parent accidentally bringing lead home.

According to the MDHHS, it’s important for parents and caregivers of children under the age of 6 to speak to their child’s doctor about blood lead testing, especially if there are concerns about lead exposure. Lead exposure at a young age has been shown to cause problems with learning, behavior, hearing and growth.

For more information on childhood lead data, visit Michigan.gov/MiTracking. Data is available from 2010 to 2021. The St. Clair County Health Department is conducting a lead testing program. For more information, visit st.claircounty.org or call (810) 987-5300.

King said the best way to prevent lead poisoning is to remove lead hazards from a child’s environment. Specific steps would include:

  • Have your home inspected by a licensed home inspector if it was built before 1978
  • Contact your water utility to find out if you have a leading service line, and if so, take steps to reduce or eliminate exposure
  • When planning renovations in older homes, use only approved lead hazard removal methods
  • Avoid imported/antique toys, jewellery, sweets or traditional medicines
  • Wash hands and toys regularly, especially before eating

Contact McKenna Golat at [email protected] or (810) 292-0122.

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