Blood Lead Levels in Young Children: US, 2009-2015

J Pediatr. 2016 Aug;175:173-81. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.05.005. Epub 2016 Jun 11.


Objectives: To evaluate trends in blood lead levels in children <6 years of age, this Quest Diagnostics Health Trends report builds on previously reported National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data with a much larger national group and adds more detail and novel assessments.

Study design: This report describes the results from a 6-year retrospective study (May 2009-April 2015) based on >5 million blood lead level results (including >3.8 million venous results) from children <6 years old living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We evaluated yearly changes and examined demographic categories including sex, pre-1950s housing construction, poverty income ratios (PIRs), Medicaid enrollment status, and geographic regions.

Results: Among children <6 years old, 3.0% exhibited blood lead levels ≥5.0 μg/dL (high). There were significant differences in high blood lead levels based on sex, pre-1950s housing construction quintiles, and PIR <1.25 and PIR >5 (all P < .01). Health and Human Services regions, states, and 3-digit ZIP code areas exhibited drastically different frequencies of high blood lead levels and blood lead levels ≥10.0 μg/dL (very high). Generally, levels declined over time for all groups.

Conclusion: Examination of more than 5 million venous blood lead level results in children younger than 6 years old allowed for a robust, detailed analysis of blood lead level group results by geography and other criteria that are prohibited with the narrower National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey database. Progress in reducing the burden of lead toxicity is a public health success story that is incomplete with some identified factors posing larger, ongoing challenges.

Keywords: blood lead levels; children; poverty income ratios; pre-1950s housing construction; regions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lead / blood*
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Lead