|MDE’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program serves as the coordinating agency of statewide efforts to eliminate childhood lead poisoning.Exposure to lead is the most significant and widespread environmental hazard for children in Maryland, and, according to the CDC, there is no safe level of blood lead. Children are at the greatest risk from birth to age six while their neurological systems are being developed. Exposure to lead can cause long-term neurological damage that may be associated with learning and behavioral problems and with decreased intelligence.Among other data, the annual Childhood Lead Registry survey compiles all blood lead tests done on Maryland children up to 18 years of age, and provides blood lead test results to local health departments as needed for case management and planning. Only the data for children under the age of 6 years is used for review of the lead poisoning prevention effort. MDE has compiled this comprehensive assessment on statewide childhood blood lead screening since 1993.Key statistics from the 2012 Childhood Lead Registry annual survey include:
- Statewide, 110,539 children under the age of 6 were tested, which is an increase from the 2011 figure of 109,534. In Baltimore City, 18,717 children were tested, a decrease from 19,049 in 2011.
- Statewide, 364 children (or 0.3 percent of those tested) had a blood lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter (mg/dL) or above. This is lower than the analogous figure of 452 (0.4 percent) for 2011. In Baltimore City, 219 children (1.2 percent of those tested) had a blood lead level of 10 mg/dL or above, which is down from 258 (1.4 percent) in 2011.
- Of the 364 cases statewide for 2012, 255 were new cases. Of the 219 cases in Baltimore City, 148 were new cases.
- Of the children in Maryland counties outside of Baltimore City with a first test through the more reliable venous method showing a blood lead level of 10 mg/dL or above, 84 percent lived in homes other than pre-1950 residential rental units. The analogous figure for Baltimore City for 2012 was 32 percent.
Maryland’s 1994 Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Act requires owners of pre-1950 rental dwelling units to register their properties and reduce the potential for child exposure to lead paint hazards by performing specific lead risk reduction treatments prior to each change in tenancy. House Bill 644, passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2012 and signed into law by Governor O’Malley, requires owners of rental properties built before 1978, when the use of lead paint was prohibited, to register these properties and take steps toward reducing the risk of lead poisoning beginning in January 2015. In addition, it raised the annual registration fee.
The legislation also allows MDE to seek delegation to administer a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule that regulates renovations, repairs and painting in homes that were built before 1978, whether they are rental units or owner-occupied, and in pre-1978 facilities with young children. The rule requires contractors who do work on these properties to receive training and use safe work practices. Maryland regulations to allow MDE to administer the federal rule are being drafted.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had, since 1990, maintained the blood lead level of 10 mg/dL as the “level of concern.” In 2012, the CDC adopted its Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention’s recommendation that eliminated the term “level of concern” (since there is no known safe blood lead level) and the recommendation of a new blood lead level “reference level” of 5 mg/dL, based on current lead levels in the population. In 2012, 1,792 Maryland children were identified with a first-time blood lead level in the range of 5 to 9 mg/dL, compared to 2,129 in 2011. MDE, in addition to performing environmental investigations in all cases where blood lead levels are 10 mg/dL or greater has begun opening compliance cases on confirmed levels of 5-9 mg/dL in which a child is identified to live in a pre-1950 rental property. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) has provided guidance to health care providers that children with confirmed levels of 5-9 mg/dL should be retested within three months, in order to ensure that their lead levels are not increasing.
DHMH and MDE are also using data from the new MDE report to revise the State’s requirements for testing of children who live in certain zip codes. DHMH expects to have a draft of the revised testing strategy available for public review in several months.