Chil­dren’s lead ex­po­sure still a global threat

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK AHEAD - —An­dis Robeznieks

The so­ci­etal costs of child­hood lead poi­son­ing are es­ti­mated at $50.9 bil­lion an­nu­ally, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis in Health Af­fairs.

De­spite that, public health ef­forts to pre­vent lead poi­son­ing are no­to­ri­ously un­der­funded. Three years ago, the bud­get for the child­hood lead-screen­ing pro­gram fronted by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion was slashed by 93%.

Public health ad­vo­cates will spotlight the need to boost that fund­ing dur­ing Na­tional Lead Poi­son­ing Preven­tion Week, Oct. 25-31. The theme for 2015 is “Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Fu­ture.” The fo­cus will be on parental ef­forts to pre­vent se­ri­ous health prob­lems by re­duc­ing their chil­dren’s ex­po­sure to lead.

Such cam­paigns are welcome and needed, ac­cord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Lyke Thompson, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Ur­ban Stud­ies at Wayne State Univer­sity.

“Those of us in the lead com­mu­nity will take what­ever help we can get to help more peo­ple,” Thompson said, adding that out­law­ing lead in fuel, plumb­ing and paint has helped abate the prob­lem, but those ef­forts also con­trib­ute to com­pla­cency. “You can’t just ban some­thing and it goes away,” he ex­plained. “It’s still there. You have to pro­tect against it for gen­er­a­tions.”

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion pro­motes the event in­ter­na­tion­ally, not­ing that lead ex­po­sure leads to in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties in 600,000 chil­dren each year. It can also be deadly. Dozens of Nige­rian chil­dren died this spring in a lead-poi­son­ing out­break re­port­edly caused by illegal gold-min­ing prac­tices. In 2010, some 400 chil­dren suf­fered a sim­i­lar fate in Nige­ria’s Zam­fara state.

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