Hello all and welcome to the Environmental
Public Health Tracking (EPHT) Community of Practice (CoP) on Knowledge
Hub. The work shown in this CoP is managed by the Environmental
Epidemiology Group (EEG) within Public Health England (PHE).
Lead is one of the biggest environmental hazards for children and can
cause toxicity even at low blood lead concentrations. There is no
known safe threshold of exposure. Exposure to Lead is a harmful and
often neglected health risk in high income and especially in low
income countries, regarded unsafe at any level and especially for
children and pregnant women. Consequences of high exposure can range
from fatigue, developmental delay and learning difficulties to
anaemia, abdominal pain and hearing loss.
The Environmental Epidemiology group started with a pilot study in
collaboration with the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit, the study
ran from 2010-2012 and was titled Surveillance of Lead in Children
(SLiC). The final SLiC report is available to read here.
46 confirmed cases of children with raised blood lead concentrations
were found over the study period, a likely underestimate of the number
of children affected. Since then, the Lead Exposure in Children
Surveillance System (LEICSS) was established, whereby our group is
responsible for publishing annual reports on the current levels of
confirmed Lead poisoning cases in children <16 years old in
England. You can read our two previous reports here.
Our latest report was published this month and is now available to
read online. 36 cases of lead exposure in children were notified to
PHE in 2019. Much like the preceding years, the vast burden of lead
poisoning in children tends to occur in males and those between 1-4
years old. The average detection rate for England between 2015 and
2019 was 3.92 cases per million children (0-15 years old)- read more
in the report here.
Despite all the delays and disruptions to normal workflows due to
COVID-19, we are still proposing that the public health intervention
level for lead be lowered from ≥10μg/dL (≥0.48μmol/L) to ≥5μg/dL
(≥0.24μmol/L) for children under 16 years and for pregnant women. This
is in line with the intervention level in the USA and other European
countries. A working group dedicated to actioning this change in
intervention level has been communicating with stakeholders to support
and progress this change, which is anticipated to be in effect by late spring.
Moving forward, hopefully reducing the health intervention level will
increase clinical and public awareness of the importance of preventing
lead exposure in the womb and at a young age and will improve the
national surveillance of children with this problem. It is currently
an under reported condition.
Join our group page for further updates on the work we’re involved
in and to access our publications.