New health warning: Faulty lead test may yield inaccurate results in young children

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) recommends parents with children less than 6 years old who had a venous blood lead test drawn before May 17, 2017 consult with their health care provider to determine whether their child should be retested.

This advisory does not apply if the child was tested with a finger or heel stick.

Additionally, pregnant women and nursing mothers who had a venous blood lead test before May 17, 2017 should consult a health care provider about retesting.

In May, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning about Magellan Diagnostics’ LeadCare® analyzers used by some Hawaii laboratories. Magellan blood lead tests on blood drawn from a vein may provide falsely low results.

When the warning was issued, DOH contacted local independent testing laboratories using Magellan Diagnostics’ LeadCare® analyzers. The DOH also contacted the chief medical officers of all health care facilities statewide. Working closely with laboratories throughout the state, and as more information became available, it was determined that a substantial number of children’s test results in Hawaii may have been affected.

At this time, the exact number of inaccurate blood lead test results received within the state is not known.

“It’s very important to identify children who may have been exposed to lead,” said DOH Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “The faulty test underestimates low blood lead levels and even low levels of lead exposure may cause adverse health effects such as learning and behavior problems in young children. If your child was tested for lead with blood drawn from a vein from 2014 to May 17, 2017, please contact your health care provider to discuss the need for retesting.”

Dr. Kalani Brady was asked about the effects of lead poisoning on children, “Lead is found in many older paints and therefore if paints have not been replaced in an old house then child can get exposed to unnecessarily high lead levels. Lead can cause changes in the brain with forgetfulness difficulty with learning difficulty with behavior and it’s basically a fairly easy test by blood to find out whether someone has been exposed to lead.”

For further questions on lead exposure, contact the Hawaii Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Click here for more information on the national safety alert.

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