Grant boosts lead paint exposure screening efforts for Ohio babies

THE BELMONT County Health Department offers lead exposure testing for babies and children on Medicaid in Ohio.

MARTINS FERRY — Exposure to lead paint dust in older homes can lead to developmental issues in children, which is why health officials offer testing for babies and toddlers in Ohio.

The service received a boost recently with a $500,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Ohio Department of Health, according to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office.

The CDC’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program aims to “help reduce lead exposure and the number of children with elevated blood lead levels across Ohio.”

“Too many children in Ohio are being poisoned by their own homes, and too many Ohio families learn that their children have been exposed to toxic levels of lead only after they begin to experience symptoms,” Brown said. “We need to make sure that communities in Ohio have the resources necessary to prevent lead poisoning, and that all children in Ohio have access to the necessary resources to diagnose lead poisoning as early as possible and ensure appropriate follow-up care.”

According to information from the Belmont County Health Department, children who are on Ohio Medicaid are required to have their blood tested for lead at 1 year old and 2 years old. Those who live in “high-risk zip codes” — including 43906 (Bellaire area), 43912 (Bridgeport area), 43917 (Dillonvale area), 43935 (Martins Ferry area) and 43943 (Rayland area) — are required to be tested between the ages of 6 months old and 36 months old at least twice with testing taking place a year apart.

The blood testing is done via a finger stick. Children with elevated lead levels will receive case management services, and their home will receive a public health investigation.

Homes built before 1978 are at risk of having lead paint inside. Exposure can often come in the form of peeling, chipped or cracked paint containing lead. Even dust can be formed from the opening and closing of windows and doors covered with lead paint.

Children can also be exposed to lead paint in other locations such as daycares and other residences they visit. Exposure can also happen from a child coming into contact with someone who has a hobby or job involving possible lead paint contact, such as construction.

“There is no safe level of lead in the blood,” according to the health department.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics Lead-Free Ohio, three out of every 100 Ohio children have an elevated blood lead level.

“Ninety-five percent of Ohio’s lead poisoning cases result from dust created by deteriorated lead-based paint in houses built before 1978,” according to Lead-Free Ohio. “Ohio’s large burden of elevated blood lead levels can be attributed to the age of Ohio’s housing stock as well as the lack of maintenance and deterioration of some homes. The systemic disinvestment in certain neighborhoods, disproportionately affecting minority communities, has resulted in high lead exposure risk in those communities.”

Signs and symptoms of lead poisoning can include irritability, behavioral problems, abdominal pain, lethargy, loss of appetite, headaches, memory loss and seizures.


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