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State of lead poisoning in the U.S.

The following information is provided by Graphiq and HealthGrove.

by Natalie Morin
Barbara Kalbfleisch / Shutterstock.com

The dangerous amount of lead recently found in the water supply of Flint, Mich. came as a shock to the majority of the American people. Believe it or not, many other states are familiar with the problem of elevated lead levels in children.

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HealthGrove found 21 states with the percentages of children younger than 6 years who tested positive for elevated blood lead levels. Elevated blood lead levels is defined as equal to or greater than 10 ug/dL lead in blood for children younger than 6. These blood lead levels are detected through blood lead tests conducted in labs. HealthGrove only included states that reported 2014 statistics, as data reporting is not mandatory for all states, and the list is in no particular order as coverage in each state is sparse.

HealthGrove also noted the number of toxic chemicals in each state as of 2013, which is data gathered by the Health Indicators Warehouse. This is defined as the quantity of toxic chemicals (defined as Toxic Release Inventory chemicals) that are disposed of, released to the environment, or managed (for example, treated or recycled) by regulated facilities. TRI is a database that contains detailed information on nearly 650 chemicals and chemical categories that over 23,000 industrial and other facilities manage through disposal or other releases, recycling, energy recovery, or treatment. Data is collected from regulated facilities in industries including manufacturing, metal and coal mining, electric utilities, commercial hazardous waste treatment, and other industrial sectors. HealthGrove also calculated the pounds of toxic chemicals released and disposed of per capita.

These elevated lead levels aren’t simply the product of contaminated water. In fact, many cases of lead poisoning stem from lead-based paint. Also, even lower levels of lead (like 2 ug/dL) can be associated with mental impairment. Fortunately, there have been many state regulations in the past few decades to reduce exposure to lead.

Note: Louisiana was not included in this list due to lack of reporting in many of its counties, but those counties that have reported their data have seen abnormally high rates of lead poisoning in small children.

#21. Tennessee

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.14%

Toxic chemicals: 78,013,698 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 12.18
Population: 6,402,387

#20. Arizona

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.14%

Toxic chemicals: 70,121,662 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 10.82
Population: 6,479,703

#19. Georgia

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.15%

Toxic chemicals: 71,399,684 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 7.28
Population: 9,810,417

#18. Mississippi

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.23%

Toxic chemicals: 67,182,036 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 22.57
Population: 2,976,872

#17. Minnesota

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.25%

Toxic chemicals: 26,355,994 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 4.93
Population: 5,347,740

#16. Maryland

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.3%

Toxic chemicals: 8,277,916 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 1.42
Population: 5,834,299

#15. Kentucky

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.37%

Toxic chemicals: 72,093,781 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 16.53
Population: 4,361,333

#14. Massachusetts

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.37%

Toxic chemicals: 3,586,455 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 0.54
Population: 6,605,058

#13. Michigan

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.46%

Toxic chemicals: 69,618,166 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 7.04
Population: 9,886,095

#12. Oklahoma

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.5%

Toxic chemicals: 30,227,185 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 7.98
Population: 3,785,742

#11. Alabama

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.51%

Toxic chemicals: 87,083,995 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 18.14
Population: 4,799,277

#10. Indiana

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.54%

Toxic chemicals: 153,044,979 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 23.49
Population: 6,514,861

#9. Vermont

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.57%

Toxic chemicals: 271,178 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 0.43
Population: 625,904

#8. New Hampshire

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.67%

Toxic chemicals: 726,528 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 0.55
Population: 1,319,171

#7. West Virginia

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.69%

Toxic chemicals: 37,999,716 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 20.5
Population: 1,853,619

#6. Connecticut

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.69%

Toxic chemicals: 2,099,282 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 0.58
Population: 3,583,561

#5. Wisconsin

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.77%

Toxic chemicals: 35,696,862 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 6.25
Population: 5,706,871

#4. Rhode Island

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.81%

Toxic chemicals: 302,326 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 0.29
Population: 1,051,695

#3. Ohio

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 0.96%

Toxic chemicals: 130,988,494 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 11.34
Population: 11,549,590

#2. Pennsylvania

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 1.28%

Toxic chemicals: 97,111,482 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 7.63
Population: 12,731,381

#1. New York

Percent of children with elevated lead levels: 1.46%

Toxic chemicals: 16,783,980 lbs
Pounds of chemicals per capita: 0.86
Population: 19,487,053

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