When to test children for lead exposure

Because of the number of toys that have been recalled for potentially high levels of lead paint, some parents are requesting that children not otherwise at high risk be tested for lead exposure. Is this testing necessary? If so, at what age? At what level of lead in the blood should an oral chelating agent be considered?
—MARCIA WELLS, PA-C, Cypress, Ill.

The only way to know if a child has been exposed to high amounts of lead is through blood tests. Listen to the parents' concerns and help them gauge the possible exposure risks for their child. Lead can come from paint or plastics used to make toys. Heat may release more lead from the plastic. Follow the specifics of any recalls attributable to lead content, help parents assess whether the child was exposed, and decide together whether to test for blood level. Since the primary route of entry is through the GI system, children who mouth things are more at risk than those who do not, regardless of age.
—Claire Babcock O'Connell, MPH, PA-C
(129-7)
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