Executive Summary

This report summarizes data on childhood blood lead levels in New York State (NYS), excluding New York City1 (NYC) for children under six years of age tested in years 2000 and 2001 (earlier data contained in "Protecting Our Children from Lead: the Success of New York’s Efforts to Prevent Childhood Lead Poisoning, May 2001" are not comparable due to changes in methodology), and blood lead screening rate data from 1994 to 1999. These data, obtained from local health departments and state district offices, are intended to support national, state, and local efforts to plan and evaluate strategies to prevent childhood lead poisoning. The data contained in this report demonstrate New York State’s continued progress in addressing lead poisoning in children.

New York State has made substantial progress in the prevention, early identification, and prompt, effective management of childhood lead poisoning. It is well understood that the factors contributing to childhood lead poisoning in New York State are complex and interrelated with other social, economic, and legal issues. These interrelationships are crucial to understanding the problem and to developing appropriate responses. The State Health Department is working to continue the positive trends described in this report as well as to seek, develop, and implement effective strategies that will protect children from elevated blood lead.

This report points to three important findings:

  1. Annual screening rates for children under six years of age remain high - The purpose of testing, or screening for blood lead levels, is to provide for the early identification of children with elevated blood lead levels, and, once identified, coordinate intervention services. NYS regulations require health care providers to test all children for blood lead levels at age one, and again at age two for monitoring and early detection. The analysis indicates that 62% of children born between 1994 and 1999 received a blood screen by 24 months of age. An additional 30% of children were screened after age 24 months for an overall screening rate of 92%. In the year 2001, 76% percent of children enrolled in Medicaid Managed Care plans were screened for blood lead levels by 24 months of age (2002 NYS Managed Care Plan Performance, Office of Managed Care, NYS DOH).
  2. The total number of children with elevated blood lead levels (prevalence) dropped between years 2000 and 2001 - Prevalence data indicate a decrease in the proportion of children with confirmed elevated blood lead levels (EBL) among those children who continue to have their blood lead levels monitored. This measure reflects both current (newly identified) and past (identified previously but ongoing) cases of children with EBL in the population. Over the two-year period examined (2000-2001), the prevalence of children with EBL of 10 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dL) or greater decreased by 18%, from 6,385 children in the year 2000 to 5,258 children in the year 2001. The overall percentage of children in the year 2001 with blood lead levels of 10ug/dL or greater was 2.7%; less than 1% of children had levels of 20ug/dL or greater.
  3. The number of new cases of children with elevated blood lead levels (incidence) dropped between 2000 and 2001 - The number of children newly identified with blood lead levels of 10ug/dL (minimum threshold defined by CDC in 1991) or higher decreased by 14%, from 3,672 children in year 2000 to 3,178 children in 2001. The number of children with EBL of 20 ug/dL (minimum threshold a child is considered lead poisoned) or higher declined 25% from 551 in 2000 to 415 in 2001.

1 The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has released two reports that summarize the surveillance activities conducted by its Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. The first report was released in July 2002 and is entitled "Surveillance of Childhood Blood Lead Levels in New York City, New York." The second report was released in January 2003 and is entitled "Preventing Lead Poisoning in New York City, Annual Report 2001." The full reports may be obtained by contacting the NYC Lead Poisoning Prevention Program's Education Unit. Data contained in these NYC reports are consistent with the trends observed among upstate New York children.