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Pandemic lockdowns exposed more kids to toxic lead

NEW YORK (Axios): Pandemic lockdowns left thousands of American kids in homes with high levels of lead exposure.

The big picture: Lead is a potent neurotoxin, especially for children, and heightened exposure during the pandemic could result in significant problems down the road.

By the numbers: According to a report last month by the CDC, 34% fewer U.S. children had blood lead level testing between January and May 2020 compared to the same time period the previous year.

As a result, the agency estimates nearly 10,000 additional children with high levels of lead in their blood may have gone undetected.

Background: There is no safe level of lead exposure, but blood lead concentrations as low as 5 micrograms per deciliter can affect the long-term cognitive development of children, leading to lifelong learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

Context: The percentage of U.S. children with high levels of lead in their blood has fallen dramatically since efforts to phase lead out of the environment began in the late 1970s.

But more than 20 million housing units in the U.S. still contain lead-based paint, which is why many states recommend that young children have their blood tested for exposure.

The pandemic severely disrupted those screenings, as well as ongoing efforts to remove lead from old buildings, meaning thousands of children — who are more likely to be poor and from minority backgrounds — could be harmed for life.