The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) is urging families to have children younger than six years old tested for lead poisoning.
Nearly half a million children nationwide have elevated blood lead levels that may significantly damage their health, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health Department spokesman Dave Zazac says that the ACHD each year encourages these blood tests.
“There are 109,000 kids in Allegheny County that fall in this age group (we’re talking zero to six years of age); and we estimate that seven percent of them are at risk for lead poisoning with blood levels that may be higher than nine micrograms per deciliter of blood. This translates roughly into 7,600 kids.”
Older homes with lead-based paint are the primary source of lead exposure among children. The key to prevention is not just to remove the lead but to make sure that renovation and repair projects are carried out properly.
Contractors and do-it-yourself remodelers performing work in housing built before 1978, when lead was banned in household paints, should follow lead-safe work practices to protect children.
In addition, children and pregnant women should not be present when older housing is undergoing renovations and not participate in or be around activities that disturb or clean up old paint.
Other sources for exposure include lead in soil and contaminated drinking water.
Lead is a highly toxic metal that can hinder the growth and development of children and cause irreversible brain damage.
Most children with elevated lead levels have no symptoms. The only way to tell whether a child has lead poisoning is with a blood test.