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Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program

Logo graphic for the program which displays a red roof of a house with the acronym beneath it.

The New Mexico Lead Poisoning Prevention Program collects blood lead level data and provides case management services to Children and Adults with elevated blood lead levels. In an effort to prevent lead poisoning and decrease elevated lead levels in exposed children, the program provides:

Lead exposure in children can cause behavioral and learning problems, hearing loss, and at very high levels, seizures, coma, and death. Adults with elevated lead levels are most often caused by Occupational exposure. High lead levels can cause high blood pressure, reproductive problems, kidney damage, hearing loss, and neurological problems.

During case management, adults are warned about Carrying Lead Dust Home to their children and about the dangers of lead for an Expectant Mother and her unborn child. Developing fetuses and growing children are highly susceptible to lead’s toxic effects.

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Should children be tested for lead?

Children exposed to even small amounts of lead can suffer adverse health affects, most notably a lowered IQ, and may develop learning and behavior problems.

Both Federal and State Medicaid regulations require that all children enrolled in Medicaid be tested at 12 months and again at 24 months of age. Children between the ages of 36 months and 72 months of age must receive a screening blood lead test if they have not been previously screened for lead poisoning. No state is exempt from this requirement!

Children with blood lead levels above 3.5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL)

Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. Therefore, for levels above 3.5 µg/dL and if requested, the New Mexico Department of Health will work with parents and physicians to identify sources of lead exposure so the exposure may be reduced or stopped. This involves discussing potential sources of a child’s exposure and providing education about lead exposure prevention.

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What steps should be taken if drinking water at home or school is above the Environmental Protection Agency action level of 15 ppb?

Households or Schools with Children Under Age 6 or Pregnant Women

Use bottled water or water from a filtration system that has been certified by an independent testing organization to reduce or eliminate lead for cooking, drinking, and baby formula preparation. Because most bottled water does not contain fluoride, a fluoride supplement may be necessary.

Households or Schools without Children Under Age 6 or Pregnant Women

If you know lead pipes are in the home/building, flush cold water for 1-2 minutes before using. Then, fill a clean container(s) with water from this tap. This water will be suitable for drinking, cooking, or other consumption. To conserve water, collect multiple containers of water at once (after you have fully flushed the water from the tap as described).

If you learn that lead pipes are at the street, flush water lines with cold water for at least 5 minutes before using. Also, you can reduce your exposure by consuming bottled water or water from a filtration system that is certified by an independent testing organization to reduce or eliminate lead. If you do not know if lead pipes are at the street, you should contact your water utility.

These steps were based, in part, on the CDC's Lead in Tap Water web page.

Should adults be tested for lead?

In New Mexico, industries where lead exposure is common include public safety, radiator repair, mining and construction. However, non-occupational sources of lead exposure are also common in adults and include (but are not limited to) firearm hobbies, retained bullets, and the use of herbal remedies.

Adults should have a blood lead level test if:

  • Their employment exposes them to lead.
  • They are self-employed or work in small businesses.
  • They routinely use leaded products in their hobby.

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Should pregnant women be tested for lead?

The New Mexico Department of Health recommends following the medical case management guidelines developed by the CDC regarding pregnant and lactating women.

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Lead Renovation: Repair & Painting Rule

Requires the use of lead-safe work practices to ensure that common renovation activities like sanding, cutting and demolition, which can create hazardous lead dust, are conducted properly by trained and certified contractors or individuals.

It's federal law! If you are a Renovation Firm or Contractor, Training Provider, Property Manager, the General Public, or Member of the Press, you must follow the EPA Lead Renovation Repair and Painting Rule (RRP).

The rule includes the following:

  • Renovation firms must be certified under the RRP rule.
  • Individuals must be trained in lead-safe work practices.
  • Training providers must be accredited by the EPA.

For more information please visit the Lead Renovation Repair and Painting Rule web page.

Lead Surveillance Data Users


The CDC Blood Lead Reference Level based on the 97.5th percentile of blood lead level distribution in US children aged 1-5 years, is 3.5 µg/dL. A child is considered to have an elevated blood lead level (EBLL) at a concentration of 3.5 µg/dL or greater.

Despite increases in New Mexico’s annual screening rates, only about 10% of children aged 1-5 years were tested for lead exposure in 2010. The rates of elevated blood lead levels among children aged 1-5 years have remained at relatively stable levels during the past few years. For example, from 2006 to 2010, the annual rates of elevated blood lead levels among children fluctuated between 1 and 2 children for every 1,000 children tested for lead exposure. From 2006 to 2010, 68 children under the age of 6 were found to have confirmed elevated blood lead levels among the 56,515 tested.

Fortunately, rates of elevated blood lead levels in New Mexican children are lower relative to US rates. However, since exposure to lead is known to have numerous adverse health effects and is a preventable exposure, these rates are still a concern. Despite the federal requirement that Medicaid-eligible children are to be tested for lead exposure, this testing does not always occur. Therefore, the rates of elevated blood lead levels may be unrealistically low.

From 2006 to 2010, 10,119 New Mexican residents aged 16 and older reported blood lead levels to the NMDOH. Of these, 31 adults had elevated blood lead levels (>25 µg/dL, 8 of which reported blood lead levels at 40 µg/dL or greater). Of the adults with elevated blood lead levels, 19 were due to occupational exposures.

Visit the New Mexico Public Health Tracking Environmental Health Data to access more data about lead in New Mexico.

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Lead and Nutrition