Lead & Prematurity

Lead poisoning can have a substantial negative impact on child development. Little is known about how lead screening and lead exposure differs among children born premature and those born at term. As premature infants are already at developmental risk, it is important to understand their lead poisoning risk. Using data from the Rhode Island Department of Health, we compared patterns of lead screening and lead exposure among children born premature (<37 weeks) and those born full-term (≥37 weeks). There was no difference in screening rates comparing preterm vs. full-term births, proportion ever lead poisoned, highest lead level, or number of lead tests. Proportional hazard models show the time to the first lead test, the first elevated lead test, and the highest lead test are all significantly longer for children born premature, compared to children born at term.