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Lead Action Level Lowering as Poisoning Prevention Efforts Increase

Author: Jacquelyn Langdon/Friday, October 25, 2019/Categories: Health

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With the increase in awareness of the harmful effects of lead poisoning in children, New York State has lowered the “action level” for confirmed blood lead level in children.  The new action level went into effect October 1st.  What this means for families with young children is now the health department will be following up and inspecting the home of children up to the age of 18 for possible lead hazards at the blood level of 5µg/dL. Prior to this new requirement, the blood level threshold for children in NYS was 15µg/dL.

Early screening of children’s blood levels is essential to detection of the lead source and initiating programs and services to lower the exposure and protect the child. Most children who become lead poisoned do not look or act sick, yet, it can damage the developing brain, leading to learning disabilities, behavior problems, and other health issues later. “Awareness of the public health impact of exposure to lead is growing and the Niagara County Department of Health is excited about the new as well as the expanded services it promotes to protect the communities of Niagara County,” stated Daniel J. Stapleton, Public Health Director. “Getting your child tested by his/her doctor early helps to prevent and mitigate toxic exposure to lead,” stated Jean Roemer, Public Health Nurse for Niagara County Department of Health. For more information on what your child’s blood lead test means:  https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2526.pdf  

Niagara County Department of Health has recently formed a Lead Poisoning Prevention Coalition to share best practices and collectively protect families from lead poisoning. A common challenge for many communities is lead paint. Since lead in paint was not banned until 1978, there are many older homes with potential lead hazards. Whether the paint is disturbed through friction of older painted windows/doors, deteriorated from wear or being renovated, once lead is disturbed, the lead dust is distributed throughout the home. Lead dust is the most common source of lead exposure for young children today. Lead dust is not visible to the eye, but can still be on your child’s hands. Good handwashing is very important, especially before eating. Hand sanitizer will do nothing to remove invisible lead dust. Toddlers are more vulnerable due to their smaller sizes and faster metabolisms, absorbing 4-5 times more lead from dust than an adult from the same source. Their oral habits including putting fingers/toys into their mouths, pacifiers, and eating finger foods adds to their risk.

The Niagara County Department of Health is supporting families who have children that are experiencing lead hazard exposure. Families with children under the age of six may be eligible for assistance in removing lead from the home through a recent HUD grant awarded to Niagara County Department of Health.  The grant funding is targeted at the cities of Niagara Falls and Lockport but will also include homes of lead poisoned children in other parts of the County.  Interested persons are encouraged to contact the Lead Hazard Reduction Program at (716) 278-8268 for further information. Remember to ask your pediatrician to have your child tested for lead.  If you have questions regarding protecting your child from lead, please call the Niagara County Department of Health Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at (716) 278-8212. 

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