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OLDER HOMES STILL A LEADING FACTOR IN TOXIC LEAD LEVELS AMONG CHILDREN, STUDY SAYS

 MINNEAPOLIS, April 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Group Health, Inc., now a HealthPartners company, reported in 1992 that older homes and apartments under renovation are the leading cause of high lead levels in children. This conclusion was from a year-long study funded by the Group Health Foundation which tested children for high levels of lead in their blood. Only 3 percent of the study participants fell into the questionable or toxic range -- lead levels above 10 micrograms per deciliter (dL) of blood. But of those, 89 percent live in homes or apartments constructed before 1950 and undergoing renovation or remodeling.
 The Group Health study, conducted from Oct. 1, 1991 to Sept. 30, 1992, involved 3,700 children, newborn to three years old, in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Following the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) 1991 examination and redefinition of acceptable levels of lead in blood, Group Health physicians felt it important as a part of the preventative focus of care to examine the extent of this problem. Group Health's large membership representing a good cross section of the metro population, and its ability to test whole blood within its own laboratory, made this study important for this area.
 "The advantage of our size and our equipment were clearly demonstrated in the study," said James Nordin, M.D., M.P.H., the Group Health pediatrician who led the study. "We were able to complete each test for just $5; clinical sites without the specialized equipment would have paid up to $35 per test."
 Toxic lead levels have been linked to physical and neurological damage such as delayed mental development, reduced IQ, shortened attention span, hearing deficit, and speech and language handicaps. Testing several years ago by Group Health pediatricians based on prior CDC standards found that 2 in 5,000 children (.04 percent) fell into the toxic range, compared to 148 in 3,700 (3 percent) based on the new, more stringent standards.
 A new study released today by the American Medical Association reports that removing lead contaminated soil is not likely to be a useful intervention for most urban children with low-level lead exposure. However, a related study, also reported in this month's Journal of the American Medical Association, concludes that the intelligence impairment of lead-poisoned children can be reversed. This study used chelation therapy (treatment to rid the body of lead) and/or iron supplements on 154 previously untreated children with lead levels between 25 and 55 micrograms/dL of blood. While short-term changes in cognitive scores were insignificant, long-term (6 months) showed a 1 point gain in standardized test scores for every 3 micrograms/dL decrease in lead levels.
 According to the CDC, more than 3 million children in 1990 had blood lead levels high enough to affect intelligence and development. For this reason, the CDC says more studies like these are needed to demonstrate the effectiveness of interventions to reduce blood lead levels.
 Group Health, Inc. is part of HealthPartners family of health plans and health-related companies. HealthPartners, formed through the August 1992 affiliation of Group Health, Inc. and MedCenters Health Plan, strives to deliver high-quality, managed health care that is efficient and cost-effective, with an emphasis on continuously measuring and improving outcomes. Choice Plus, HealthPartners' first product, was developed in partnership with Mayo Clinic and Park Nicollet Medical Center and introduced in 1992.
 -0- 4/6/93
 /CONTACT: Mary Onstad of HealthPartners, 612-627-5311/


CO: HealthPartners ST: Minnesota IN: HEA SU:

AL -- MN007 -- 3593 04/06/93 18:00 EDT
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