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Elevated blood lead levels in children are associated with neurologic effects such as behavioral and learning problems, lower IQ, hyperactivity, hearing problems, and impaired growth. In pregnant women, lead exposure can impair organ systems such as the hematopoietic, hepatic, renal, and nervous systems, and increase the risk of preeclampsia and adverse perinatal outcomes. Many of the adverse health effects of lead exposure are irreversible.
To update the 2006 US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation on screening for elevated blood lead levels in children and pregnant women.
The USPSTF reviewed the evidence on the benefits and harms of screening for and treatment of elevated blood lead levels. In this update, an elevated blood lead level was defined according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reference level of 5 μg/dL.
The USPSTF found adequate evidence that questionnaires and other clinical prediction tools to identify asymptomatic children with elevated blood lead levels are inaccurate. The USPSTF found adequate evidence that capillary blood testing accurately identifies children with elevated blood lead levels. The USPSTF found inadequate evidence on the effectiveness of treatment of elevated blood lead levels in asymptomatic children 5 years and younger and in pregnant women. The USPSTF found inadequate evidence regarding the accuracy of questionnaires and other clinical prediction tools to identify asymptomatic pregnant women with elevated blood lead levels. The USPSTF found inadequate evidence on the harms of screening for or treatment of elevated blood lead levels in asymptomatic children and pregnant women. The USPSTF concluded that the current evidence is insufficient, and that the balance of benefits and harms of screening for elevated blood lead levels in asymptomatic children 5 years and younger and in pregnant women cannot be determined.
Conclusions and Recommendation
The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for elevated blood lead levels in asymptomatic children. (I statement) The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for elevated blood lead levels in asymptomatic pregnant persons. (I statement)
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Corresponding Author: Susan J. Curry, PhD (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) members: Susan J. Curry, PhD; Alex H. Krist, MD, MPH; Douglas K. Owens, MD, MS; Michael J. Barry, MD; Michael Cabana, MD, MA, MPH; Aaron B. Caughey, MD, PhD; Chyke A. Doubeni, MD, MPH; John W. Epling Jr, MD, MSEd; Alex R. Kemper, MD, MPH, MS; Martha Kubik, PhD, RN; C. Seth Landefeld, MD; Carol M. Mangione, MD, MSPH; Lori Pbert, PhD; Michael Silverstein, MD, MPH; Melissa A. Simon, MD, MPH; Chien-Wen Tseng, MD, MPH, MSEE; John B. Wong, MD.
Affiliations of The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) members: University of Iowa, Iowa City (Curry); Fairfax Family Practice Residency, Fairfax, Virginia (Krist); Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond (Krist); Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, California (Owens); Stanford University, Stanford, California (Owens); Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts (Barry); University of California, San Francisco (Cabana); Oregon Health & Science University, Portland (Caughey); University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (Doubeni); Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Roanoke (Epling); Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio (Kemper); Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Kubik); University of Alabama at Birmingham (Landefeld); University of California, Los Angeles (Mangione); University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester (Pbert); Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts (Silverstein); Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois (Simon); University of Hawaii, Honolulu (Tseng); Pacific Health Research and Education Institute, Honolulu, Hawaii (Tseng); Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts (Wong).
Accepted for Publication: March 7, 2019.
Author Contributions: Dr Curry had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. The USPSTF members contributed equally to the recommendation statement.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: All authors have completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest. Authors followed the policy regarding conflicts of interest described at https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Name/conflict-of-interest-disclosures. All members of the USPSTF receive travel reimbursement and an honorarium for participating in USPSTF meetings.
Funding/Support: The USPSTF is an independent, voluntary body. The US Congress mandates that the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) support the operations of the USPSTF.
Role of the Funder/Sponsor: AHRQ staff assisted in the following: development and review of the research plan, commission of the systematic evidence review from an Evidence-based Practice Center, coordination of expert review and public comment of the draft evidence report and draft recommendation statement, and the writing and preparation of the final recommendation statement and its submission for publication. AHRQ staff had no role in the approval of the final recommendation statement or the decision to submit for publication.
Disclaimer: Recommendations made by the USPSTF are independent of the US government. They should not be construed as an official position of AHRQ or the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Additional Contributions: We thank Iris Mabry-Hernandez, MD, MPH (AHRQ), who contributed to the writing of the manuscript, and Lisa Nicolella, MA (AHRQ), who assisted with coordination and editing.
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