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ITHACA, NY – Nearly half a million children living in the United States have elevated blood lead levels that may cause significant damage to their health, estimates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The estimate is based on children with a blood lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter or higher using data from national surveys conducted in 2007-2008 and 2009-2010.
The theme of Lead Poisoning Prevention Week this year is Lead Free Kids for a Healthy Future. It underscores the importance of testing your home, testing your children, and learning how to prevent lead poisoning’s serious health effects. These may include a lower IQ, hearing loss, kidney disease, and growth problems.
Major sources of lead exposure to U.S. children include lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in homes and buildings built before 1978. Children can also be exposed to lead from additional sources including contaminated drinking water, take-home exposures from a workplace and lead in soil. Some traditional medicines and ointments used by East Indian, Indian, Middle Eastern, West Asian and Hispanic cultures may also contain lead.
New York State passed legislation in September 2016 mandating that schools across the state test drinking water for lead contamination. The state Department of Health also issued emergency regulations requiring that school districts test their water for lead contamination by Oct. 31, 2016 and report results to parents, the state Department of Health and local government officials.
Despite the continued presence of lead in the environment, lead poisoning is preventable.
Gail Birnbaum, Community Health Nurse at the Tompkins County Health Department notes children with reported elevated blood levels are monitored. “We help parents identify sources of lead that may have been the cause of the lead poisoning and we provide education on prevention and testing.” She also reports that NYS law and regulations require health care providers to test all children’s blood lead levels at ages one and two years, and to assess all children six months to six years of age for risk of lead exposure at least annually as part of routine care.
For more information on lead poisoning prevention, go to the Tompkins County Health Department website: www.TompkinsCountyNY.gov/health/lead/index
(Featured photo by Bart Everson on Flickr)