Blood lead screening practices among US pediatricians

James R. Campbell, Stanley J. Schaffer, Peter G. Szilagyi, Karen G. O'Connor, Peter Briss, Michael Weitzman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives. In 1991, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decreased the blood lead level of concern to 10 μg/dL (0.48 μmol/L) and recommended universal screening. Because these guidelines continue to provoke controversy, we conducted a study to: 1) estimate the proportion of pediatricians who are members of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) who report screening for elevated blood lead levels; 2) describe their clinical practices regarding screening for elevated blood lead levels; 3) compare attitudes of universal screeners, selective screeners, and nonscreeners; and 4) identify characteristics of pediatricians who universally screen. Design. Confidential, cross-sectional survey of a nationally representative random sample of 1610 pediatricians conducted through the AAP Periodic Survey. Subjects. The study included 1035 responders (64% response rate). Analysis was limited to the 734 pediatricians who provide well-child care (ie, primary-care pediatricians). Results. Fifty-three percent of pediatricians reported screening all their patients aged 9 to 36 months, 39% reported screening some, and 8% reported screening none. Among those who screen, 96% use a blood lead assay. The primary risk factors for which selective screeners screen are: history of pica (94%); living in an older home with recent renovations (92%); living in an older home with peeling paint (93%); and having a sibling who had an elevated blood lead level (88%). Among primary-care pediatricians, 73% agree that blood lead levels ≤10 μg/dL should be considered elevated, and 16% disagree. However, 89% of primary- care pediatricians believe that epidemiologic studies should be performed to determine which communities have high proportions of children with elevated blood lead levels, and 34% of primary-care pediatricians believe that the costs of screening exceed the benefits. Conclusions. Three years after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines for the management of elevated blood lead levels, a slight majority of primary-care pediatricians in the United States who are members of the AAP report that they universally screen their appropriately aged patients, while most of the remaining pediatricians report screening high-risk patients. Many pediatricians may want additional guidance about circumstances under which selective screening should be considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)372-377
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1996


  • elevated blood lead levels
  • screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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