NATIONAL LEAD POISONING PREVENTION WEEK: 40,000 DFW children under 6 have dangerous blood lead levels – Find local events
National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is Oct. 23 through Oct. 29, and below is local and national information, including an article by the Dallas Morning News’ Valerie Wigglesworth that reports that data shows 40,000 DFW area children under 6 years of in Dallas, Denton, Collin and Tarrant counties have blood lead levels of as least 2, which is considered dangerous and can impair brain develop and cause problems with behavior, among other health concerns.
The package also includes information about related local events:
Can Exide! – Oct. 24-27, Frisco City Hall
And get a copy of a Lead Poisoning Prevention Tip Sheet prepared by Dr. Howard Mileke, leading international expert on lead toxicity and contamination, especially in U.S. metropolitan areas.
And don’t forget to check out “HEALTH RISKS – NO SAFE LEVEL OF LEAD section of this website.
“Childhood lead poisoning is the No. 1 environmental contaminant-driven disease in the country, and nobody knows this. That’s because lead carries no visible symptoms at lower levels.
“If a child has cancer, you know it. Not so with most lead exposure.”
—– Trey Brown, a metals toxicologist and faculty associate at the University of Texas at Arlington.
“…But even low levels of lead are harmful to children’s developing brains. Data requested by The Dallas Morning News shows that 40,123 children under 6 in that four-county area have blood lead levels of at least 2.”
—– Excerpt from Dallas Morning News article: “40,000 Dallas-Fort Worth children under 6 have lead in blood, data shows”, published Oct, 22, 2011
National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week
October 23 to October 29, 2011
LEAD-FREE KIDS FOR A HEALTHY FUTURE
Today, childhood lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among young children, yet an estimated 250,000 U.S. children have elevated blood-lead levels. A simple blood test can prevent permanent damage that will last a lifetime. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is committed to eliminating this burden to public health.
National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW)
CDC and HHS share the goal of eliminating childhood lead poisoning in the United States. During NLPPW, CDC aims to:
- Raise awareness about lead poisoning;
- Stress the importance of screening the highest risk children younger than 6 years of age (preferably by ages 1 and 2) if they have not been tested yet;
- Highlight partner’s efforts to prevent childhood lead poisoning; and
- Urge people to take steps to reduce lead exposure.
During NLPPW, many states and communities offer free blood-lead testing and conduct various education and awareness events. For more information about NLPPW activities in your area, please contact your state or local health department.
FROM DALLAS MORNING NEWS ARTICLE, OCT. 22, 2011
AT A GLANCE: National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week
While lead is one of the most damaging toxic chemicals in the environment, lead poisoning is also one of the most preventable kinds. Solutions start with learning the risks and determining who is exposed.
Studies have shown that washing children’s hands before they eat can go a long way. Replacing contaminated soil has also helped lower lead levels.
Monday through Thursday, 10 A.M. to 7 p.m.
Simpson Plaza – Frisco City Hall
Starting Monday Oct., 24, through Thursday, Oct. 27, the citizens group Frisco Unleaded will collect canned goods for the nonprofit Frisco Family Services Center. The goal is to collect 2,000 cans, with each can representing one pound of lead. A collection of 2,000 cans equals 2,000 “pounds”, or approximately a “ton” of lead that the Exide Technologies lead battery recycling plant emits annually into Frisco area air. Donations will be accepted from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday in Simpson Plaza, in front of Frisco City Hall.
SOURCE: Dallas Morning News researchand other news sources
40,000 Dallas-Fort Worth children under 6 have lead in blood, data shows
By VALERIE WIGGLESWORTH
Published: 22 October 2011 11:29 PM
The headlines have focused on Frisco, where a battery-recycling plant emits too much lead. But the dangers go far beyond Frisco’s backyard.
In cities such as Dallas and Fort Worth, particles from leaded gasoline banned decades ago still contaminate the soil.
Most cities, from Plano to Garland to Arlington, have older homes still coated with lead paint that flecks off with age or disintegrates into dust during renovations.
And pottery, antiques, spices, candy, toys and jewelry also may be tainted by the toxic metal.
Last year 432 children under age 6 in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties had what are considered elevated levels of lead in their blood, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. A level of at least 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood is considered elevated.
But even low levels of lead are harmful to children’s developing brains.
Data requested by The Dallas Morning News shows that 40,123 children under 6 in that four-county area have blood lead levels of at least 2.
“Childhood lead poisoning is the No. 1 environmental contaminant-driven disease in the country, and nobody knows this,” said Trey Brown, a metals toxicologist and faculty associate at the University of Texas at Arlington.
That’s because lead carries no visible symptoms at lower levels.
“If a child has cancer, you know it,” Brown said. Not so with most lead exposure.
Scientists have linked lead to health problems among people of all ages. But children under 6 are most at risk. That’s because lead exposure during those key developmental years damages areas of the brain related to academic performance as well as speech, language and behavior. Lead exposure at a young age has also been linked to learning disabilities, such as attention deficit disorder, and to criminal activity.
Several studies have also found that IQ loss is greater in children with blood lead levels below 10.
Without intervention, the effects can become permanent. And the costs — from future lost earnings to special-education services to medical attention to public safety — total in the billions of dollars each year, according to research.
In 1970, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deemed blood lead levels at or above 40 micrograms per deciliter of blood to be a cause for concern among children. That was also the level that required some sort of public health intervention. The level for concern was dropped to 25 in 1985 and to 10 in 1991, and there it has remained.
Yet debate rages among scientists, with some recommending that the blood lead level of concern be set as low as 2.
Data shows that 173,884 children under 6 had blood lead levels of 2 or more last year in Texas. That represents nearly 42 percent of children tested statewide.
Similarly high figures were recorded in Dallas County, which had 20,013 children under age 6 with lead levels of at least 2.
Many sources of lead
While the numbers offer some idea of the extent of the problem, they have their limits.
“Never use epidemiological data to assess risk to an individual child,” Brown said, “because there are so many different sources of lead.”
Just because a child has a certain blood lead level doesn’t mean the child next door is at risk, Brown said. The opposite is also true: Just because a child has tested negative for lead doesn’t mean others are in the clear.
“Every kid should be tested in the state,” Brown said.
That’s not the case in Texas. Only children on Medicaid are required to be tested, at ages 12 months and 24 months. The state recommends that children living in certain ZIP codes or census tracts also be tested, but it’s not required by law, said Christine Mann, spokeswoman for the state health department.
Those areas, chosen based on recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have at least 27 percent of their housing built before 1950 or at least 3 percent of children ages 1 and 2 showing elevated blood lead levels, Mann said.
The state has initiated a number of outreach efforts to increase the number of children being tested, she said.
Lead paint is the greatest source of exposure among children but isn’t the only source.
In Frisco, there are concerns about lead emitted by the Exide Technologies battery-recycling plant near downtown. An area around the plant is one of 21 in the nation that does not meet the federal air-quality standard for lead. Exide officials are working with state and federal regulators on upgrades to lower emissions.
In big cities, the threat can be in the soil, where vehicle exhaust from the days of leaded gasoline contaminated roadsides and yards.
Howard Mielke, a research professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, published a study last year ranking 90 urban areas based on traffic data and the amount of leaded gasoline used between 1950 and 1982. The Dallas-Arlington-Fort Worth area ranked fifth in the amount of lead released into the air. The estimated emissions ranged from 16,623 to 91,878 metric tons.
“These were all invisible lead particles floating through the city,” Mielke said. “Nobody saw it. We didn’t really realize what was taking place. But you can measure it in the soil.”
And as long as that soil isn’t disturbed, the lead remains there for hundreds of years, he said.
“In places where there is high soil lead, there tends to be high blood lead,” Mielke said, adding that those areas share another trait: “There tends to be very weak performance in the school system.”
Knowing a child has been exposed to lead is just the first step. People still have to track down the source of the exposure — and that’s no easy task.
More than a year after her family learned they had elevated lead levels, Shiby Mathew still doesn’t know how they are being exposed.
“There’s no explanation,” the Frisco mom said.
The family’s pediatrician recommended that Mathew’s two children get tested last summer. The results were a surprise: Six-year-old Joel had a blood lead level of 16, and 8-year-old Jessica’s level was 14. Mathew and her husband were tested later and found to have lead levels above 10.
Tests repeated in March showed levels down to 7 for the entire family. But Mathew’s level is now back to 10 — and she doesn’t know why.
The family has tested the water and checked spices, utensils and other household items. They even searched for lead paint in their home, which was built three years ago.
“Nobody’s helping,” she said of her repeated calls to state and city officials. “I just want to know what the source is so I can cut it off.”