Hundreds of thousands of children nationwide – including an estimated 7,500 in Wisconsin in 2011 – have elevated blood lead levels that may damage their health and affect their success in school, making it critical to raise awareness and participate in this year’s National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, state and local health officials announced.
“Lead poisoning affects all of us, because it can harm a child’s brain and cause lifelong learning and behavior problems,” explains Sue Kuber, Public Health Nurse from Lincoln County Health Department. “The symptoms of lead poisoning are not easy to recognize so it is very important that children be tested at age 1 and 2 with a simple blood test.
“Most children who are lead poisoned are exposed to lead-contaminated dust from deteriorating paint in older homes or other buildings built before 1978. This is why this year’s campaign messages are: get your home tested, get your kids tested, get the facts,” Kuber said.
In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lowered the blood lead level at which follow-up action is recommended for children from10 mcg/dL to 5 mcg/dL or more. According to 2011 data, this change would increase the number of Wisconsin children considered at risk from 876 to more than 7,500.
A recent study by University of Wisconsin – Madison researchers showed that children with even moderate lead exposure before age 3 were three times more likely to be suspended from school in fourth grade compared with peers with little or no exposure to lead. An earlier study by the same researchers showed such exposure resulted in lower standardized test scores for these children.
To lower a child’s exposure to lead, action steps include follow-up with health care providers and seeking help from other professionals to find and remove the lead sources. Exposure at higher levels may require medications to help remove lead from the child’s body, but brain injury caused by the lead cannot be reversed.
Lincoln County Health Department can provide helpful information about preventing childhood lead poisoning. Contact them at 715-536-0307 or visit http://lincolncountyhealthdepartment.com. To learn about steps you can take to remove lead from your home, visit the Lead-Safe Wisconsin website, www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/lead, or call the National Lead Information Hotline at 800-424-LEAD (5323).