Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus has announced the County’s Department of Health will receive nearly $16,000 in additional funding for the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program from the New York State Department of Health. The funding is used to support and enhance county efforts to reduce prevalence of elevated blood lead levels in children under the age of six through a comprehensive program of primary and secondary prevention.
County Executive Steinhaus said, “Lead poisoning remains one of the most preventable environmental health problems facing our children today. The goal of our Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is to ensure all children are tested for lead at the ages of one and two years old. A blood lead test is the only way you can tell if your child has an elevated lead level.”
Lead poisoning can affect anyone, but children are far more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults. Even minor exposures can cause nervous system disorders, lowered IQ’s, impaired memory and reaction times, and shortened attention spans. A child exposed to lead may develop headaches, muscle and joint pain, tiredness, behavioral problems or irritability, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and nausea or vomiting. Most children with elevated blood lead levels do not have any symptoms. There is no safe level of lead in blood.
One of the innovative approaches the Dutchess Department of Health uses to combat childhood lead poisoning is an outreach effort based on Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping. The addresses of children with elevated blood levels are entered into the GIS software to produce a map showing the neighborhoods where lead poisoning has occurred. The addresses encompassed by the mapping are then targeted for educational outreach to allow parents of young children to become informed consumers of healthcare.
The County’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program has public health nurses who are available to provide individual case management and follow-up to children with elevated blood lead levels. Community education, outreach, and environmental investigations are also available.
The following recommendations and precautions are designed to protect children from lead poisoning:
- All children should be tested for lead at ages one and two.
- Homes built before 1978 may contain lead paint or household plumbing made with lead materials.
- Clean floors, window frames, window sills and other surfaces at least weekly. Use a mop, sponge or paper towel with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner.
- Don’t try to remove lead paint yourself, because you risk creating lead dust and chips. Consider hiring a professional contractor with experience in working safely with lead removal.
- Be sure children wash their hands before eating, after playing outside and at bedtime.
- Don’t bring lead dust into the home. If you are exposed to lead at work, change your clothes and shower, if possible, before you go home. Wash work clothes separately.
Parents and caregivers are advised to see their health care providers if they have concerns about exposure to lead. For more information about the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, contact the Dutchess County Department of Health at (845) 838-4800.
County Executive Steinhaus’ resolution to accept the grant funding was unanimously supported by the County Legislature at the May 12, 2008 board meeting.