There is no safe amount of lead in a child’s blood. Even small amounts of lead can result in damage to the brain and nervous system, cause behavioral problems, learning difficulties and other medical issues – all of which may be permanent. However, legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Kemp, bolsters protection for Georgia children who may be exposed to lead.

The amount of lead in blood is referred to as the blood lead level, which is measured in micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (μg/dL). The new Georgia legislation lowers the threshold for confirmed lead poisoning from 20 to 3.5 micrograms of lead per deciliter. The level is now consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“DPH is extremely grateful to the members of the General Assembly and the Governor for their decisive action which allows for a more robust program for identifying and preventing cases of lead poisoning, and protecting the children of Georgia,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., commissioner, Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH).

Lead poisoning

Those most at risk include children under six years of age, children living at or below the federal poverty level, pregnant women, and those who live in older housing. Often, there are no obvious symptoms of lead exposure.

A simple blood test can detect lead poisoning. A small amount of blood is taken from a finger or heel prick or from a vein in the arm. Based on your child’s blood lead test results, healthcare providers can recommend follow-up actions and care. DPH strongly urges parents to have their children tested for lead.

Lead can be found in many places in a child’s environment, but lead exposure is preventable. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead.

“With passage of this important legislation and added funding, DPH will hire 18 additional lead inspectors statewide to investigate cases of lead exposure, educate families on ways to reduce exposure, and work with property owners to eliminate and reduce the source of lead.  This will protect more Georgia children and families” said Chris Rustin, DrPH, MS, REHS, DPH deputy commissioner.

For more information about lead poisoning or preventing exposure to lead please visit:  https://dph.georgia.gov/environmental-health/healthy-homes-and-lead-poisoning-prevention or https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/prevention/health-effects.htm.