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Lead Prevention Week

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008 at 9:02 am

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is joining with many partners to highlight the need for continued efforts to reduce childhood lead poisoning during National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week Oct. 19-25. Despite recent progress in reducing childhood lead poisoning in the state, lead exposure remains a significant environmental health risk, state health officials said today.

The number of Minnesota children diagnosed with lead poisoning is less than one-fourth of what it was just 12 years ago, according to MDH data. That reduction mirrors a national trend in which blood lead levels have declined dramatically. The number of children in the state requiring an environmental intervention has also decreased significantly, declining from 977 in 1995 to 197 in 2007.

“Our ongoing collaboration with local and federal partners will help to ensure that this positive trend continues. However, it’s important to keep public attention focused on this problem,” said Environmental Health Division Director John Linc Stine. “We need to continue our efforts to make sure all at-risk children are screened for lead poisoning, and to eliminate potential sources of lead exposure in older homes. Childhood lead poisoning is a potentially devastating illness, but it’s also entirely preventable.”

Lead poisoning in children can affect their cognitive development, growth and behavior. At very high levels, lead poisoning may result in seizures, coma or death. The lead is found primarily in the paint of homes built before 1978. In Minnesota, approximately 1.2 million homes contain at least some lead paint.

MDH is asking local public health agencies, private partners, parents and communities to use the observance to increase awareness of the sources and solutions for childhood lead poisoning. For example, the Sustainable Resource Center (SRC) will hold a Lead Testing and Flu Shot Clinic Oct. 22 at the Sabathani Community Center in Minneapolis from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. See: www.src-mn.org/SRC_calendar.htm for more information.

One major factor in reducing lead poisoning rates has been increased screening. More than one million results of blood lead screening tests have been received by MDH since 1995. Today, there are three times more children being tested each year than there were in 1999.

“The goal in Minnesota, as in the nation, is to eliminate childhood lead poisoning by 2010. With less than two years to go, we need to emphasize continued cooperation and leadership on this important goal,” Stine said. “By working closely with our partners in public health, health care, housing, and community advocacy, we will work to eliminate childhood lead poisoning in Minnesota.”

A variety of new and ongoing activities are contributing toward meeting that goal. The MDH lead program addresses housing-based lead exposure by:

* Working with families in which someone has high blood lead levels to find how people are being exposed and poisoned and to remove or reduce the lead hazards in the home.
* Using available state data to promote measures that prevent lead exposure in housing.

In addition, the MDH program works with a wide range of partners to address other sources of exposure, including lead in venison, toys, jewelry, artificial turf, fishing tackle, wheel weights, and other consumer products. Special projects include an examination of lead exposure in refugees, promoting efficient data use through matching and integrating children’s health records, and evaluating program capacity to incorporate healthy homes concepts.

SRC recently received a Lead Elimination Action Program (LEAP) grant of $1.54 million from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to control lead paint hazards in 215 homes that are also being weatherized through the Department of Energy Weatherization Program. SRC Executive Director Dan Newman said, “These federal LEAP funds will be critical to helping us reduce lead exposure for low-income families living in high-risk homes and will allow us to better integrate lead hazard reduction with weatherization efforts, saving energy and protecting children.” Minneapolis has also received a $600,000 lead research grant from HUD.

Additional HUD lead hazard reduction (LHR) grant activities in Minnesota include:

* The City of Minneapolis received a $3 million LHR grant to control lead hazards in 300 homes.
* MDH has $1.4 million to identify and control lead hazards in 138 homes in outstate areas.
* Hennepin County has a $3 million LHR grant to control lead hazard in 325 homes throughout the metro area.
* Hennepin County has a $4 million LHR demonstration grant to address lead hazards in 525 homes in the City of St. Paul, City of Duluth, and Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently adopted its Renovation, Repair and Painting rule to protect families from the dangers of lead dust resulting from renovations and everyday painting and repairs in pre-1978 housing and child-occupied facilities. The rule requires the use of lead-safe paint removal practices to ensure that activities such as sanding, cutting and demolition do not disperse harmful lead dust into a family’s air, food and clothing. The rule requires that:

* Contractors performing renovations and dust sampling are properly trained.
* Renovators, dust sampling technicians and firms performing these renovations are certified.
* Their trainers are accredited.
* Lead-safe work practices are followed during renovations in a pre-1978 residence or child-occupied facility.
* Cleaning verification is completed at the conclusion of the renovation project.

Additional information about how to identify risks and prevent lead poisoning is available from the MDH Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 651-201-4605 or www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/lead/index.html.

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