Health and Family Services Cabinet
Put the Lid on Lead
Lead Poisoning Prevention Week Highlights the Importance of Preventing Childhood Lead Poisoning
In an effort to increase screenings and awareness about lead poisoning, the Kentucky Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program and its partners will educate parents and stakeholders throughout the state during Lead Poisoning Prevention Week Oct. 22-28.
Parents are encouraged to “Put the Lid on Lead” by taking part in prevention efforts. Specifically, the Department for Public Health encourages learning more about the ways children come into contact with products that contain lead and how to avoid childhood lead exposure.
“Lead poisoning remains a very real threat to the health and well-being of Kentucky’s children. If we are to be successful in our goal of eliminating lead poisoning as a public health problem, it will take a coordinated effort by all Kentucky’s public health and health care professionals. That effort starts with recognizing the need to screen our most vulnerable and at-risk populations,” said Justin Carey, coordinator of the Kentucky Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.
Approximately 310,000 children across the United States are at-risk for lead poisoning as a result of lead in their environment. Lead poisoning, thought to be a problem of the past, is considered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be the No. 1 environmental health risk to America’s children, although it is 100 percent preventable.
If undetected, prolonged exposure to lead can damage nearly every system of a young child’s body. Irreversible loss of IQ, sense of hearing and damage to vital organs such as the liver and kidneys are just a few of the detrimental effects exposure to lead can have on developing children’s bodies.
Lead poisoning can also exist in children without ever demonstrating any visible signs or symptoms, which compounds the issue of early detection and diagnosis. The most common way children are exposed to lead is from deteriorated lead paint and dust, commonly found in and around homes built before 1978.
Lead paint on doors, windows and other high traffic areas can easily break down and become a fine dust that can settle on window sills, floors and even toys. This dust is easily spread throughout the house and can be ingested by small children during normal play activities unbeknownst to even the most watchful parents.
Children may also be exposed to lead through some pottery and ceramics, imported candies, toys and various other sources in their environment.
“Because lead poisoning often has no obvious symptoms, the only way to know for sure is to have a simple blood test for lead performed,” said William Hacker, M.D., undersecretary for health and public health commissioner for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
The Kentucky Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program has recently developed and begun implementing a targeted screening plan that focuses on those children at greatest risk for lead exposure. The plan identifies zip codes through the state with historically high numbers of childhood lead poisoning cases, pre-1950 housing and children living in poverty.
“Children living in these zip codes should be tested,” Hacker added. “Additionally, all Medicaid and Passport enrolled children and those with known risk factors should be tested. “
“The goal of the targeted screening plan is to ensure we are screening children who are at-risk for lead poisoning,” said Carey. “Through a targeted approach, we hope to identify and test children throughout the state that might not have been tested previously.”
For more information about who is at-risk for lead poisoning, contact your child’s physician, your local health department or the Kentucky Department for Public Health’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.
For more information on childhood lead poisoning prevention or Lead Poisoning Prevention Week activities in your area, contact the Kentucky Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at (502) 564-2154 or visit www.putthelidonlead.org.