Childhood Lead Exposure Widespread in Chicago

68 percent of children younger than 6 years are exposed to lead-contaminated water, with racial inequity seen for exposure
Childhood Lead Exposure Widespread in Chicago
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Medically Reviewed By:
Meeta Shah, M.D.

MONDAY, March 18, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Childhood lead exposure is widespread in Chicago and there are racial inequities evident in testing rates and exposure levels, according to a study published online March 18 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Benjamin Q. Huynh, Ph.D., from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues examined the extent of lead-contaminated drinking water in Chicago and modeled its impact on children younger than 6 years in a cross-sectional study. Tests were obtained from households in Chicago that registered for a free self-administered testing service for lead exposure; 38,385 household tests were collected.

The researchers found that an estimated 68 percent of children younger than 6 years (corresponding to 129,000 children) were exposed to lead-contaminated water. A 10 percent increase in block-level Black and Hispanic populations was associated with decreases of 3 and 6 percent, respectively, in the odds of being tested for lead and with increases of 4 and 11 percent, respectively, in having lead-contaminated drinking water.

"Levels of widespread childhood lead exposure, such as those found in this study, are symptomatic of structural marginalization and are likely preventable through large-scale interventions to replace lead service lines and improve access to testing," the authors write. "The benefits of harm-reduction strategies, such as lead filtration technology and anticorrosive agents to prevent lead leaching into water, should also be studied and explored."

Abstract/Full Text

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