Nearly a quarter of a million children living in the United States have blood lead levels high enough to cause significant damage to their health, estimates the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on data from a 2003–2004 national survey. If high blood lead levels are not detected early, children with such high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from damage to the brain and nervous system. They can develop behavior and learning problems (such as hyperactivity), slowed growth, hearing problems, and aggressive patterns of behavior.
To raise awareness of the consequences of lead poisoning among parents and pregnant women who live in homes built before 1978, Maine CDC is participating in National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW) October 23–29. Maine CDC joins US CDC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in encouraging parents to learn more about how to prevent lead poisoning.
This year's NLPPW theme, "Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future," underscores the importance of testing your home, testing your child, and learning how to prevent lead poisoning’s serious health effects.
Established in 1999 by the US Senate, National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week occurs every year during the last week in October. To mark the week, Maine CDC is offering parents of all children born in Maine in 2010 a free home lead dust test kit.
The offers for free tests come with an educational brochure that is being mailed to more than 11,000 families as part of Maine’s effort to eliminate childhood lead poisoning. Instructions on how to schedule a test are included in the mailer.
"The goal of the mailing is to prevent lead poisoning. The test kits we are offering can help parents find out if their home has a lead dust problem," said Dr. Sheila Pinette, Director of Maine CDC. "Then they can address any problems and keep their children safe from lead."
Exposure to dust that comes from lead paint in homes built before 1950 is the most common way children are poisoned by lead in Maine. Lead paint is often found in homes built before 1950 and sometimes in homes built before 1978. Lead poisoning can cause behavior problems, learning disabilities, speech and language delays, and lower intelligence.
Made possible by the Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund, this is the second annual mailing of its kind. Nearly 300 families in Maine took advantage of the prior mailing and tested their homes for lead dust. About one quarter of those families identified lead dust problems in their homes and received education to properly address the problems.
"We hope parents who live in older homes will take advantage of the offer for a free lead dust test kit, especially if they live in a house or apartment built before 1950," said Dr. Pinette.
For more information, go to www.maine.gov/healthyhomes.