Gov. wolf launches push for mandatory lead testing in children statewide

From: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Gov. Tom Wolf came to Pittsburgh Thursday to shine light on his statewide initiative to tackle the serious health problem of lead exposure in young children, starting with a call for mandated blood testing throughout Pennsylvania.

Even low levels of lead have been linked to a child’s IQ and ability to pay attention, how well he or she does in school and other behavioral issues. Mr. Wolf said about 30% of children are tested in the state.

“Pennsylvania has the sixth-highest percentage for children suffering from lead poisoning and this is only the number who have been formally diagnosed,” Mr. Wolf said in a press conference at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “This isn’t good for the future of Pennsylvania.”

Testing children is just the start of the process, Mr. Wolf said.

“Allegheny County is leading in this,” he remarked, noting the mandated testing launched in the county Jan. 1, 2018. Children are tested with a finger prick for lead exposure once between 9 to 12 months old and again at age 2.

In the first year, a total of 23,057 children were tested, and elevated levels — of at least 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood — were confirmed in 480 children.

The county Health Department directs the effort to find children who have been exposed to lead and connect their families to help in removing lead hazards from the home. Resources such as early intervention are available to help with any developmental delays that may appear in a child. Paint and dust in homes built before 1978 are the most common sources of lead exposure. Awareness of lead in drinking water rose dramatically after the Flint, Mich., water crisis, which came to light in early 2015.

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