Rural areas are often viewed as lower risk for lead poisoning with toxic exposures seriously impacting development of the brain and central nervous system. This study examined the prevalence of elevated blood lead levels from children <6 years of age in rural Ben Hill County, GA.
[Photo: Dr. Chris Rustin]
Lead surveillance data from the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) were analyzed using SAS®v-9.3 to calculate the prevalence of elevated blood lead levels (≥5ug/dL) among those children in Ben Hill County who had been tested for lead; the results were compared to Georgia and national data.
Preliminary analysis of 2010-2015 screening data indicated that 8.73 percent (95 percent- CI: 7.4-10.1 percent) of children tested for lead exceeded the Centers for Disease Control reference level (≥5ug/dL) and is approximately 3.5 and 2.4 times higher, respectively, when compared to the National (2.5 percent) and State (3.64 percent) percentages of children exposed to lead at or above the reference level. In addition, this analysis demonstrated low overall testing rates for children <6 years of age, impacting the estimate of population prevalence for childhood lead poisoning in Ben Hill County.
While these data are preliminary and more analysis is planned to ascertain the full breadth, source, and scope of the problem, it highlights lead poisoning risks rural communities face that are often overlooked in population-based risk analysis and research on lead exposure in children.
“A preliminary examination of elevated blood lead levels in a rural Georgia county,” was published in the Journal of the Georgia Public Health Association.
Dr. Chris Rustin, assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health Georgia Southern University was the lead author.