Why we need manda­tory lead test­ing for ev­ery child

The Morning Call - - TOWN SQUARE | A PLACE TO BE HEARD - La­mont McClure is the Northamp­ton County ex­ec­u­tive.

As Northamp­ton County ex­ec­u­tive, I want to ex­press my sup­port for Gov. Tom Wolf’s ini­tia­tive to cre­ate a lead-free Penn­syl­va­nia by man­dat­ing lead test­ing for chil­dren.

The Philadel­phia City Coun­cil re­cently passed a bill re­quir­ing physi­cians to test for el­e­vated lev­els of this toxic heavy me­tal in chil­dren be­fore they reach the age of 2. Philadel­phia be­comes the sec­ond county in Penn­syl­va­nia (Al­legheny County be­ing the first) to es­tab­lish rules and reg­u­la­tions to pro­tect chil­dren from the harm­ful ef­fects of lead.

If two of Penn­syl­va­nia’s largest cities see early test­ing as im­por­tant, then the state should pass the gov­er­nor’s leg­is­la­tion.

In Northamp­ton County, our ex­pe­ri­ence is that lead is most of­ten hid­den in lay­ers of old paint. The fric­tion from open­ing and clos­ing a win­dow or door can gen­er­ate lead dust. The dust is dif­fi­cult to re­move and may ac­cu­mu­late over a pe­riod of years.

There is no es­tab­lished safe level of lead in the hu­man body, so any ex­po­sure is re­garded as po­ten­tially harm­ful. Even low lev­els can dam­age hear­ing, learn­ing abil­ity and co­or­di­na­tion in chil­dren.

Par­ents in Northamp­ton County should be aware that, de­spite re­cent progress in re­duc­ing the amount of lead in our daily lives, young chil­dren are still be­ing ex­posed. Ac­cord­ing to the 2017 Penn­syl­va­nia Child­hood Lead Sur­veil­lance An­nual Re­port, Northamp­ton County and the cities of Beth­le­hem and Eas­ton are in a zone where young chil­dren have el­e­vated blood lev­els in com­par­i­son to other ar­eas in Penn­syl­va­nia.

Gov. Wolf has taken the right path by in­tro­duc­ing a statewide ini­tia­tive to tackle the pub­lic health is­sue of lead ex­po­sure. Manda­tory test­ing and re­port­ing on a statewide ba­sis will ad­dress the fact that only 30% of the state’s chil­dren are cur­rently eval­u­ated. Out of those, 4.6% show el­e­vated lev­els of lead in their blood. Fed­eral guide­lines sup­port chil­dren be­ing given a fin­ger prick test be­tween age 9 and 12 months and then again at 2 years.

I know that no par­ent will­ingly would ex­pose their child to the dan­gers of lead. With manda­tory re­port­ing re­quire­ments, a par­ent would know early about their child’s risk from a quick fin­ger prick test, which can be eas­ily in­cor­po­rated into a stan­dard health screen­ing. Early test­ing will re­sult in early treat­ment, and also re­duce the risk of fur­ther ex­po­sure.

A 1978 fed­eral law banned lead in all paint prod­ucts. One of the con­cerns in Northamp­ton County is the av­er­age year of con­struc­tion of our hous­ing stock, which is around 1965. With homes dat­ing to pre-1940 and older, there is a good chance that many con­tain some lead paint. These facts make a strong case for test­ing along with manda­tory re­port­ing. We as a com­mu­nity have a lot of work to do in get­ting this pub­lic health men­ace un­der con­trol.

Northamp­ton County has so­lu­tions for fam­i­lies. There are in­stru­ments that can de­tect lead on sur­faces, and one-touch blood an­a­lyz­ers that give in­stant re­sults.

The cities of Beth­le­hem and Eas­ton have di­rect num­bers for ques­tions. In Eas­ton, the num­ber is 610-250-6718 and in Beth­le­hem, that num­ber is 610-865-7083.

ALGERINA PERNA/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

An im­prop­erly ad­justed door scrapes against the door frame, drop­ping lead paint onto the bath­room floor.

La­mont McClure

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