Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program

Lead Poisoning in Arizona

Arizona does not mirror the rest of the country in that our leading cause of lead poisoning is not exposure to lead based paint. In cases where a source of exposure could be identified, traditional remedies (i.e. Greta and Azarcon) and lead contaminated pottery were the most frequently identified sources of exposure.

Arizona & Regional Sources of Lead Exposure

  • Mexican Lead-Glazed Ceramics - Leaded ceramic ware is one of the leading causes of elevated blood lead levels in children throughout Arizona and the Southwestern United States. Lead glazed pottery, often made in Mexico, is used primarily by Hispanic communities to simmer foods for extended periods of time, during which lead in the pottery or its glaze can be absorbed into food and liquids.
  • Imported Candies or Foods - Some candies imported from Mexico have been found to contain lead. Certain ingredients, such as chili powder and tamarind, are found to be the most common source of exposure. Lead has also been found in the ink of some imported candy wrappers.
  • Mexican Folk & Ayurvedic Remedies - Lead has been found in some traditional folk remedies used by Hispanics, East Indians, Middle Easterners and West Asians. In Arizona, the most common lead contaminated folk remedies used by Hispanic populations are Greta and Azarcon. They are typically used to treat an upset stomach (empacho), constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, and are often given to teething babies.

Targeted Screening

The principal federal recommendations on screening young children for lead poisoning are issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The current guidance was published in November 1997 in a document called Screening Young Children for Lead Poisoning: Guidance for State and Local Public Health Officials. State health departments and their partners are encouraged to develop formal childhood lead poisoning screening plans that echo the national guidelines, while still reflecting local conditions.

The CDC guidance recommends targeted screening in communities or states where less than 12% of children have lead poisoning and where 27% or fewer of houses were built before 1950. This recommendation is based partially on an analysis suggesting that the benefits of universal screening outweigh the costs only when the prevalence of lead poisoning is in the range of 11% to 14% or higher. Lead poisoning rates in Arizona meet these criteria for development of a targeted screening plan.

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has developed a Targeted Screening Policy based on geographic testing for children who are at higher risk of lead poisoning. Surveillance data is analyzed annually to identify zip codes at greater risk of childhood lead poisoning. ADHS's plan also supports the Centers for Medicaid Services (CMS) guidelines for providing universal screening of all children enrolled in Early Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) services. ADHS believes that the combination of targeted screening by zip code and universal screening for children enrolled in Arizona's Health Care Cost Containment Services (AHCCCS) will result in better identification of children with elevated blood lead levels and cost saving measures for healthcare providers.


Lead Poisoning is considered a reportable disease, which means that blood lead results are required to be reported to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Physicians are required to report elevated blood lead levels, and laboratories are required to report both elevated and non-elevated test results.