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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2012 Oct 30;9(11):3934-42. doi: 10.3390/ijerph9113934.

Increased incidence and altered risk demographics of childhood lead poisoning: predicting the impacts of the CDC’s 5 µg/dL reference value in Massachusetts (USA).

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  • 1Wellesley College, Department of Environmental Studies, 21 Wellesley College Road, c/o Daniel Brabander, Wellesley, MA 02481, USA. phandler@wellesley.edu


In May 2012, the CDC adopted a new sliding scale reference value for childhood lead poisoning, reducing the former 10 μg/dL benchmark by half. Using Massachusetts (MA) as a model state, we estimated the change in the population of 9-47 month-olds at risk for lead poisoning. We then examined the impact of the 5 µg/dL reference value on the demographic characteristics of lead risk in MA communities. We find that the new CDC benchmark will lead to a 1470% increase in childhood lead poisoning cases among 9-47 month-olds in MA, with nearly 50% of the examined communities experiencing an increased prevalence of lead poisoning. Further, the top 10 MA communities with BLLs ≥5 μg/dL have significantly fewer foreign-born residents and significantly larger white populations than the highest risk communities formerly identified by the MA Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. The CDC's new 5 μg/dL lead poisoning benchmark will drastically increase the number of children with elevated BLLs and alter the distribution and demographics high-risk communities in MA.

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