SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The number of San Diego County children suffering from severe lead poisoning has decreased by 61 percent since 2004, local health officials announced Wednesday.
Fifty-four children in the county were found to have elevated blood lead levels in 2004, compared to 21 last year, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.
In 1996, 102 children suffered from lead poisoning in the county, according to the HHSA.
Officials attributed the decline to the county's Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, which tests area children for lead exposure, and efforts to eliminate sources of lead in homes.
More than 49,000 children in San Diego County were tested for lead last year.
Lead, even in low levels, can cause severe developmental problems in children.
Nearly a quarter of a million children living in the U.S. in 2003-04 had blood lead levels high enough to cause health problems, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Despite being banned in 1979, lead-based paints remain the leading source of lead poisoning in children.
To prevent exposure, the HHSA encouraged parents to always request a lead inspection before buying an older home, and have their children tested for lead poisoning, even if they appear healthy.
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