Broome County Health Department Recognizes Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

County Residents Reminded of the Importance of Preventing Lead In and Around the Home

BINGHAMTON, NY - In recognition of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, October 19-25, 2008 the Broome County Health Department is reminding residents that exposure to lead poses a health risk to children.

Lead is a metal found in the earth, and it is toxic. Every year, approximately 310,000 children across the United States and approximately 2,800 in New York State are lead poisoned. In 2007 33 children in Broome County were found to have blood lead levels =10 micrograms per deciliter. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no apparent threshold below which adverse effects of lead do not occur. An additional 264 children were found to have blood lead levels between 5-9 micrograms per deciliter in 2007.

The most common way children are lead poisoned is from exposure to lead paint, which is commonly found in homes built before 1978. Disturbing the lead paint allows dust to settle on toys, windowsills and floors. Children can then easily ingest bits of dust and paint chips. Other less common ways are through sources of lead in children's jewelry and charms, craft paint and pottery glazes, lead fishing sinkers, old plumbing, stained glass work and old painted toys and furniture.

Over time, exposure to lead can cause a range of health problems including permanent damage to the brain and nervous system. Lead poisoning can also cause problems with a child's growth, behavior, and ability to learn.

“The effects of low levels of lead poisoning are not always obvious,” cautions Claudia Edwards, Public Health Director for the Broome County Health Department. Children with lead poisoning usually do not look or feel sick. The only way to know for sure is to get a blood lead test. Public Health Law requires health care providers to screen children for lead at one and two years of age. Testing should also be done on children older than two if they:

• Live, or spend a lot of time in a home built before 1978 (when lead paint was banned from use in the U.S.)
• Live near busy roads or industry
• Live with people who work with lead
• Are recent immigrants
• Eat paint chips, plaster, or soil
• Have a brother or sister with a high lead level

According to the State Health Department, there are two major challenges for New York State in addressing childhood lead poisoning: the age of the housing stock and the number of children living in poverty. New York has the highest number of housing units built prior to 1950 in the nation. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has estimated that 75% of pre-1950 housing contains lead paint. Lead poisoning can reach across all socioeconomic levels, but poor children tend to be at greater risk, as these children are more likely to live in older, deteriorating housing with lead paint hazards.

Families could reduce the risk of lead poisoning by following these safety precautions:

• Ask your landlord or realtor about lead before you rent or buy a home.
• If you live in a house or apartment built before 1978, have repairs made to any pealing paint.  Before doing any repair work you should contact the Broome County Health Department's lead program at 607.778.2850 to find out how to paint and repair safely.
• Be careful toddlers don't eat or play with paint chips, plaster, dust or dirt.
• Wash children's hands, toys and pacifiers often.
• Wash hard surfaces such as floors and window ledges weekly.
• Do not dry-scrap, heat or burn paint.
• Let tap water run for 1 minute before using it.

The Broome County Health Department wants county residents to know that despite the continued presence of lead in the environment today, lead poisoning is entirely preventable. This year's NLPPW theme, "Let's Wipe Out Lead Poisoning-Renovate Right" underscores the importance of preventing lead exposure through lead-safe work practices to prevent lead poisoning's serious health effects, such as brain damage, learning and behavior problems or even death. This year's theme also highlights Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) new rule for contractors that conduct renovations, repairs, and painting activities.

The new “Renovate Right” rule requires renovation and remodeling contractors, maintenance workers and painters and other specialty trades to follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination during renovations of pre-1978 housing and other child-occupied facilities. For details about the rule visit the EPA's website at www.epa.gov/region07/citizens/lead.htm.

For more information on how to protect children from exposure to lead, call the Broome County Health Department at 607.778.2850.

10/21/2008 - 12:00am