In 2008, 27 percent of the children tested for lead in Marion County had an elevated lead level. Why do we test for lead, what does it mean and what can we do?
Lead exposure is one of the most common preventable poisonings of childhood. Data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows that 6 percent of all children ages 1-2 years have blood lead levels in the toxic range. Lead is a potent poison that can affect individuals at any age. Exposure to lead can have a wide range of effects on a child’s development and behavior.
Even when exposed to small amounts of lead levels, children may appear inattentive, hyperactive and irritable. Children with greater lead levels may also have problems with learning and reading, delayed growth and hearing loss. At high levels, lead can cause permanent brain damage and even death.
It has been documented that high lead levels can lead to ADHD, autism and other learning disabilities. Adult IQ scores are associated with childhood lead exposures that were measured at or below the CDC’s level of concern. The IQ scores declined with higher blood lead levels.
Lisa Martin BSN, WIC Coordinator at Marion County Public Health states, “Every child that we see at our WIC clinic is tested yearly for lead from ages one through five through our child health program. If their lead levels are elevated, the child health nurse refers the child to their primary physician for a health evaluation. We then refer the family to Marion County Environmental services to help them determine the source of the lead exposure and what they can do about it.”
Last year, 386 children were tested for lead at Marion County Public Health.
In Marion County 33 percent of the homes were built before 1950. The reason this is an important statistic is because lead paint was banned in 1978, so the older the home the more layers of paint that may be present and peeling making it easier for curious little hands to get those paint chips into little mouths.