HEALTH

CDC recommends retesting Newark kids for lead after skewed results

By Brenda Flanagan
Correspondent

“It’s a good idea to have them retested because you never know what can happen,” said mother Jameeka Faller.

Faller says she’d be okay with having her daughter rechecked for lead. Two-year-old Nasiyah’s among about 4,600 Newark children — 15,000 kids statewide — who were tested for lead before May 17. That’s when national health officials realized there was a problem with the Magellan Diagnostics lab machine — the one that uses test tubes filled with blood drawn from an arm vein, according to Newark’s Director of Health and Community Wellness.

“And again it does not mean that something is wrong with your child. We just want to make sure that our testing is accurate and therefore we want to offer this retesting,” said Director of Newark Department of health and community wellness, Dr. Mark Wade.

The FDA announced, “The FDA is deeply concerned by this situation and is warning laboratories and health care professionals that they should not use any Magellan Diagnostics’ lead tests with blood drawn from a vein.”

It says, test results can skew lower than actual lead levels.

How off can the machine be? “We don’t know. It can be off by one or two points. It can be off by 40 points. We don’t know, but that’s why we’re doing the retesting,” Wade said. “This is a precautionary measure, for which we want to provide the opportunity for the child to be retested.”

The CDC says the issue affects kids between the ages of one and six, who got the test tube version of the blood lead test — not the finger stick — before May 17, and got a result of ten micrograms per deciliter, or less. Those results are unreliable and the CDC recommended retesting.

“So that we can retest them — for free — and either assure them they indeed have a normal lead level, or that the lead level was given falsely low and it’s elevated and we can immediately hook them into our protocol to get all the issues addressed,” said Wade.

“I’m not going to say it’s not a big deal. It’s pretty much an inconvenience, but it has to be done,” said Victoria Woodhouse.

The State Department of Health says, “In addition to Newark, a handful of health care providers who tested children for lead were notified by the Department that they may be impacted. The Department recommended retesting and offered them a draft letter they could send to parents about the recall.”

Newark will send those letters to families of 4,600 children and offers free lead screening tests at its Department of Health and Community Wellness on 110 William Street. Kids will get the finger stick test and immediate results, like this family did today.

“It’s real good though, because you can find out if they have lead or not. And they don’t,” said Dominique Green.

Magellan Diagnostics directed clients not to use its machines for those blood tests. Newark will be sending out those letters in the next few days. Again — lead testing is available at the city’s health department for free.