Health officials try to identify those impacted by inaccurate le - WNEM TV 5

Health officials try to identify those impacted by inaccurate lead test results

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The FDA and the CDC have issued a warning about inaccurate lead test results, and TV5 has learned 128 of those tests happened in Flint.

The FDA believes the issue could date back to 2014 and involves the Magellan Diagnostics LeadCare Analyzers.

“We remain in close communication with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as well as the CDC regarding this matter,” said Dr. Pamela Pugh, Flint’s Chief Public Health Advisor. “We have been told that the Magellan Diagnostic LeadCare Analyzer is not widely used in Flint. Most of the blood lead testing done in Flint consists of blood lead draws collected by finger or heel sticks (or capillary blood lead testing).  This safety alert issued by the FDA does not apply to capillary blood lead test results.” 

The CDC is recommending all healthcare providers retest all children who are 6-years-old and younger who had testing taken from the vein with a result of 10 micrograms per deciliter or less using the Magellan analyzer, the MDHHS said.

“While parents are encouraged to contact their physician to determine if their child’s test may be affected by this warning, it’s important to note that local health officials are working with MDHHS to ensure that healthcare providers also reach out to those who may have been tested using the Megallan equipment,” Dr. Pugh stated.

Pugh said the city of Flint doesn't know who the families are that are impacted. The city is working with state and local health providers to determine who may be impacted by the faulty tests, which have inaccurately produced low blood lead results.

Pugh said that faulty tests amount to about 1 percent of the tests done in Flint.

“While less than two percent of the lead tests performed statewide since 2014 were done using this Magellan equipment from a venous draw, we take this issue very seriously and will be working closely with our local health departments and health care providers to ensure they are aware of the recommendations and offering retesting as appropriate,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive of MDHHS.  “It’s important to remember that lead does not stay in the blood for very long, so a low test result today may not tell you if there was past exposure. Talk to your physician to determine if retesting is needed for your child.”

Dorthea Cobb has seven children. All of them have had their blood tested for lead levels.

"Another thing that you have to worry about more than what you have to worry about on a daily basis," she said.

Pugh said most of the testing done in Flint is capillary testing.

"So that means that it's a heel or a finger poke and so this does not apply. This warning does not apply to that testing. It applies to the veinous testing," Pugh said.

Cobb said she can't remember what type of testing was used on her children.

Flint Councilwoman Vicki VanBuren said she is concerned about a group of people who received inaccurate results.

"Say it came back saying your kids were fine. So you think you're in the clear and you may not be in the clear," VanBuren said.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, one of the doctors at the forefront of identifying the water crisis, said Magellan brand machines are not commonly used in Flint. For example, the labs she works with at Hurley do not use those machines.

"It is only a very small number of labs really in Flint and nationally that could have been impacted," she said.

Lead exposure will only show up in tests for a certain amount of time, although effects could stay in a person's system for much longer.

"What sense of security? What sense of trust have we given these families, when now we're saying some of those tests may not have been accurate," VanBuren said.

She said incidents like this offer yet another reason why the state should continue to support Flint's efforts to heal from the ongoing crisis, despite improved lead levels.

"They should be tested on a more regular basis citywide and I don't care if it's children or adults," VanBuren said.

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