Elevated blood lead levels in refugee children--New Hampshire, 2003-2004

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2005 Jan 21;54(2):42-6.


As a result of reductions in lead hazards and improved screening practices, blood lead levels (BLLs) in children aged 1-5 years are decreasing in the United States. However, the risk for elevated BLLs (> or =10 microg/dL) remains high for certain populations, including refugees. After the death of a Sudanese refugee child from lead poisoning in New Hampshire in 2000, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (NHDHHS) developed lead testing guidelines to screen and monitor refugee children. These guidelines recommend 1) capillary blood lead testing for refugee children aged 6 months-15 years within 3 months after arrival in New Hampshire, 2) follow-up venous testing of children aged <6 years within 3-6 months after initial screening, and 3) notation of refugee status on laboratory slips for first tests. In 2004, routine laboratory telephone reports of elevated BLLs to the New Hampshire Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (NHCLPPP) called attention to a pattern of elevated BLLs among refugee children. To develop prevention strategies, NHDHHS analyzed NHCLPPP and Manchester Health Department (MHD) data, focusing on the 37 African refugee children with elevated BLLs on follow-up for whom complete data were available. This report describes the results of that analysis, which indicated that 1) follow-up blood lead testing is useful to identify lead exposure that occurs after resettlement and 2) refugee children in New Hampshire older than those routinely tested might have elevated BLLs. Refugee children in all states should be tested for lead poisoning on arrival and several months after initial screening to assess exposure after resettlement.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Africa / ethnology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lead Poisoning / epidemiology*
  • Lead Poisoning / prevention & control
  • Male
  • New Hampshire / epidemiology
  • Refugees*