Vermont’s progress increasing the percentage of children tested each year has been mixed. After holding steady at approximately 80% since 2006, the percentage of 1-year-olds tested each year declined steadily from 82% in 2014 to 69% in 2021 with the most significant decreases in 2020 and 2021. The percentage of 2-year-olds tested significantly increased from 2006 (44%) to 2014 (72%) and held steady until a sharp decline during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 that continued into 2021. The percentage of 2-year-olds tested decreased from 72% in 2019 to 62% in 2021. The declines seen in 2021 are likely the result of a LeadCare II analyzer test kit recall, as well as the disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of children with blood lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) has declined. From 2006 through 2021, the percentage of 1- and 2-year-olds with blood lead levels greater than or equal to 5 µg/dL declined significantly (1-year-olds from 19.4% to 4.6%, and 2-year-olds from 22.5% to 3.9%). In 2021, the number of 1- and 2-year-olds in Vermont who had a blood lead level greater than or equal to 5 µg/dL were 184 and 143, respectively. In total, 387 children under the age of 6 had a blood lead level greater than or equal to 5 µg/dL, lower than the 400 reported in 2020. The fewer number of children who had elevated lead levels is likely due, in part, to the reduced number of children getting tested.
While the State’s definition of an elevated blood lead result is any reported level of lead, the level at which the Health Department contacts the family to help find lead hazards is currently 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL). The Program is in the process of updating Vermont’s pediatric blood lead testing and treatment guidelines to be in line with our current definition of an elevated blood lead level. Lowering the level means that more children could be identified as having lead exposure, allowing parents, doctors, public health officials, and communities to act earlier to reduce the child’s future exposure to lead.