Lead (Periodic Table Element: Pb) is a systemic poison if it enters the human body, even in minute quantities. It is harmful to every system in the human body. Luckily, in adults, much of the lead we are exposed to is excreted, although some may enter the blood stream or may be stored, for example, during periods of bone loss. Some forms of lead may be mistaken by the human body as calcium. The blood to brain barrier in adults is better formed than it is in children, which protects adults more from blood lead poisoning. Therefore, it is crucial to identify blood lead exposures early in children since lead can harm everything from their developing central nervous system and brain, to other important systems in early childhood development. Lead exposure in children is a serious health concern, with no level really being safe in the bloodstream. Researchers and health officials are continuing to study the health effects.
Human (adult) exposure to lead occurs through various means, such as exposure at work or through contact with leaded gasoline (diesel fuel), soil or leaded paint in older homes, (especially if built prior to 1978 or recently remodeled). Exposures in children are more likely to be through lead in paint or dust-including from paint removal and remediation (water blasting or sandblasting, which should not be done in older homes without proper precautions), lead in soil, or lead in food or the water supply, leached through metal pipes or fittings. Incinerators which were common in waste disposal, nearby industry pollution, certain agricultural pesticides, or open air burning of certain materials may have released legacy sources of lead- or even current sources- to air, soil, soil run-off and the water supply.
Older cities such as New Orleans, and rural infrastructure including water treatment and distribution systems may have lead pipes, fittings or service lines which could introduce lead hazards or exposures. This is also true for private wells and home plumbing.
To explore childhood blood lead levels data, click here.
Tracking Blood Lead Levels in Louisiana
The Health Data Portal contains parish level information on childhood blood lead testing rates and levels of lead in blood samples, presented by birth cohort and annually. These measures currently refelct childhood blood lead testing resporting by health care providers received by LDH from 2011-2017.
Childhood Blood Lead data are reported through the Louisiana Department of Health, the Louisiana Healthy Homes and Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (LHHCLPPP).
The measures of the annual Blood Lead level included 4 measures.
For these measures, the total number and percent of children tested by state and parish:
- Population numbers used for the denominator are from the S. Census Bureau – Vintage Bridged-Race Postcensal Population Estimates. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/bridged_race/data_documentation.htm
The denominator for the other three measures is from the total number of children tested.
The measures for birth cohort also included 4 measures. For these measures, the total number and percent of children tested by state and parish:
- Population numbers used for the Denominator are from Louisiana Department of Health- State Registrar and Vital Records and Louisiana Department of Health-Bureau of Family Health
Annual Blood Lead Levels:
Stratified into children 1) less than 3 years of age, 2) aged at least 3 years but less than 6 years of age, 3) less than 6 years of age.
Blood Lead Levels by Birth Cohort:
Children less than 3 years of age. Elevated cases calculated by birth cohort were calculated for each parish.
For both blood lead levels by birth cohort and annual blood lead levels measures, data reported are:
- Total number and percent of children tested by state and parish
- Number and percent of tests where blood lead levels were between 5 and 10 μg/dL (micrograms per deciliter) by state and parish
- Number and percent of confirmed tests where blood lead levels were higher than 10 μg/dL; these elevated measures are shown by state and parish.
- Number and percent of confirmed tests where lead levels were higher than 10 μg/dL by blood lead level category (10 - < 15 μg/dL, 15 - < 20 μg/dL, etc.); these measures are shown by state.
The current blood lead reference level is 5 μg/dL, based on National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2007-2008 and 2009-2010 data published in the Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, and updated in 2012. According to the US CDC, there is no safe health limit for childhood blood lead.
Please refer to Data Sources and Additional Information below to contact the Bureau of Family Health LHHCLPPP program. For additional metadata information, please refer to the Childhood Blood Lead Info Tab (insert .pdf icon with direct link) or e-mail the LDH Tracking Program at firstname.lastname@example.org.