A federal task force on Tuesday said it doesn't have enough evidence to require lead screenings for pregnant women and children if they show no symptoms.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force updated its recommendations for the tests, changing its 2006 stance that rejected routing screenings in pregnant women who don't show signs of high lead exposure.
Now it's up to clinicians to use their "best judgment" on whether the tests are necessary.
"Clinicians should use their best judgment about if and when to screen children and pregnant women without signs or symptoms for lead exposure and keep up to date on any concerns about lead in their community," Michael Silverstein, a member of the task force, said in a statement.
The task force also concluded that current prediction tools such as clinical questionnaires used to determine if a child without symptoms has elevated lead levels are inaccurate. It also found that blood testing accurately identifies if a child has an elevated lead level.
Elevated lead levels in the body can cause irreversible damage to various organ systems such as the kidneys, heart and liver, the task force said. At least 4 million households have children who are being exposed to high lead levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Children absorb lead at a higher rate than adults and are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead on their developing nervous system," the panel added in a release.
The recommendation was published in JAMA.