Submitted by the Niagara County Department of Health
Lead poisoning is preventable. Protecting children from exposure to lead is important to lifelong good health.
Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention and academic achievement. The effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected. The most important step parents, doctors and others can take is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs. Half a million U.S. children have blood lead levels 5mcg/dl or higher, the reference level at which the CDC recommends public health actions be initiated. A simple blood test can detect lead levels early so measures can be taken to prevent permanent damage that will last a lifetime.
Lead based paint and lead contaminated dust are the main sources of exposure to lead in U.S. children. All children are at risk, but children under the age of 6 are at greater risk because they are growing so rapidly and because they tend to put their hands or other objects, which may be contaminated with lead dust into their mouth.
Approximately 24 million housing units have deteriorated leaded paint and elevated levels of lead contaminated house dust. More than 4 million of these dwellings are homes to one or more young child. Children living at or below the poverty level who live in older housing are at greatest risk, and children of some racial and ethnic groups and those living in older housing are disproportionately affected by lead. It is important to determine the construction year of the house or the dwelling where your child may spend a large amount of time (e.g. grandparents or day care).
In housing built before 1978, assume that the paint has lead unless tests show otherwise. Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead based paint. Pregnant women and children should not be present in housing built before 1978 that is undergoing renovation. They should not participate in activities that disturb old paint or in cleaning up paint debris after work is completed.
Create barriers between living or play areas and lead sources. Until environmental cleanup is completed, parents should clean and isolate all sources of lead. Close and lock doors to keep children away from chipping and peeling paint on walls. Apply temporary barriers such as contact paper or duct tape to cover holes in walls or to block children's access to other sources of lead. Wet-mop floors and wet-wipe horizontal surfaces every two to three weeks, including windowsills and wells that can contain high levels of leaded dust. Shut or open windows from the top sash to prevent abrasion of painted surfaces. Regularly wash children's hands and toys, as they can become contaminated from household dust or exterior soil. Prevent children from playing in bare soil. Plant grass on areas of bare soil or cover the soil with grass seed, mulch or wood chips. Until covered, parents should move play areas away from bare soil and away from sides of the house.
The Niagara County Department of Health Lead Poisoning Prevention Program nursing staff monitors all lead levels in children living in Niagara County. Nurses provide educational visits to families of children with elevated lead levels, and follow up with doctors and families to assure that lead exposed children are being tested according to state guidelines.
The goal is to assure lead levels are less than 3.3 mcg/dl. Children who are known to need testing or who are considered at risk are routinely tested in the Health Department's immunization clinics.
Niagara County Division Environmental Health sanitarians inspect all dwellings where children identified with lead levels of 15mcg/dl or higher reside. Health officers use special detection equipment to identify lead in these dwellings. The team then works with landlords and homeowners to remediate lead hazards. In addition, Primary Prevention Program staff canvases neighborhoods deemed high risk, based on numbers of children with high levels identified in those areas.
PPP representatives educate families on lead prevention, and notify landlords and homeowners about home repairs needed to mitigate any suspected lead hazards. They assure work is completed to specifications through follow-up inspections and documentation. For more information about lead poisoning prevention, contact the Niagara County Department of Health Nursing Division at 716-278-1900.