From 1976 to 1980, an estimated 88 percent of children aged 1 to 5 had blood lead levels at or above 10 mcg/dL, compared with 4.4 percent in 1991-1994, 1.6 percent in 1999-2002 and 0.8 percent in 2007-2010.
However, there are persistent differences in the blood lead levels of children in different racial/ethnic and income groups that are linked to disparities in housing quality, environmental conditions, nutrition and other factors, the study said.
Efforts to prevent lead poisoning should target areas and communities where children are most at risk, the study authors recommended in the April 5 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Another expert not involved with the report described what parents can do.
"Parents may help protect their children by ensuring that their home environments are free of lead-based paint and by keeping children away from old windows and areas with peeling paint," said Dr. Roya Samuels, a pediatrician at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.
"Maintaining a clean home and encouraging frequent hand-washing are good preventative measures as well," Samuels said. "A healthy, well-balanced diet including foods rich in calcium and iron will also help children absorb less lead if exposed to the toxic metal."
Over the past decades, nationwide efforts to reduce lead levels in children have included removing lead from gasoline, eliminating lead paint in homes, reducing lead levels in children's products and screening those at high risk.
The Nemours Foundation has more about children and lead.
-- Robert Preidt
SOURCES: Philip Landrigan, M.D., director, Children's Environmental Health Center, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York City; Roya
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