BALTIMORE, MD (June 1, 2002) – Strengthened efforts to eliminate a preventable environmental health hazard continue as Gov. Parris N. Glendening has proclaimed June 1-8 as Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Week in Maryland.
Sponsored by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), the Lead Poisoning Prevention Partnership and the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, the program is comprised of week-long activities across the state that highlight what parents and property owners can do to prevent lead poisoning.
The effects of lead poisoning, a preventable disease, may result in poor school performance, inability to read, aggressive behavior, hearing loss or even mental retardation. By 2000, nearly one million U.S. children under the age of six had blood lead levels greater than 10 micrograms per deciliter, which is considered to be an elevated level by the Centers for Disease Control.
“In Maryland, 4.6 percent of children tested under the age of six had elevated blood lead levels--in Baltimore city that figure rises to 12.2 percent,” Gov. Glendening said. “Maryland is working to change these statistics. Innovative programs in lead poisoning prevention are showing results. Homeowners are more aware of lead paint hazards when undertaking home renovation, fewer children are being exposed or poisoned and more homes are being treated and inspected before they are rented. Last year, more than 20,000 rental units were certified for meeting risk reduction standards.”
Acting MDE Secretary Merrylin Zaw-Mon added that changes in Maryland's lead law have resulted in more lead enforcement activity. “In 2001, more than 500 enforcement actions for lead hazards were undertaken,” she said. “Despite these strides, there is much to do to ensure that not a single child is exposed to lead.”
Maryland’s fight against lead poisoning has escalated in the last few years through increased enforcement, property owner education and community awareness. In 1999 for example, 555 Maryland children were diagnosed with blood lead levels that exceeded the lead poisoning standard. That number dropped to 353 in 2000. Baltimore city children made up the majority of those figures with 446 cases in 1999 and 266 in 2000.
Marylanders can learn how to recognize and prevent potential exposure from lead during Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Week events ranging from carnival-like community-based health fairs to mobile wellness vans, interactive displays, hospital seminars and free screenings. A complete list of Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Week events and tips can be found on MDE’s ‘Lead Line’ website at: www.mde.state.md.us/health/lead, or on the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning’s website at: www.leadsafe.org. These websites also include information on MDE's lead law for property owners, tenants, and parents.
Throughout the year, MDE’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program assists local health departments with case management of lead poisoned children, and promotes locally based outreach. MDE also runs the statewide lead rental registry, conducts enforcement actions and coordinates with state and local agencies on lead poisoning prevention measures.
Parents can help by learning the sources of lead poisoning, and by getting their children tested. This is especially important for young children, who are at greatest risk from exposure to lead dust through normal hand-to-mouth behavior. Health care providers can help by assuring that children aged one and two years receive the appropriate screening for lead poisoning. Blood lead testing is now required at age one and two years for all children living in “at risk” areas statewide, living in Baltimore City, or receiving services through Medicaid.
Homeowners can help prevent lead poisoning by considering lead paint before beginning home renovation. Using lead-safe methods, or trained, accredited contractors can prevent creating a lead hazard in your home.
Rental property owners can help prevent lead poisoning by meeting the requirements under the state's Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Law. Rental properties built before 1950 must comply with the state's requirements for registration, inspection and tenant education. Grants and loans for lead hazard reduction are available statewide, with extra focus on Baltimore City.
For more information on childhood lead poisoning and its prevention call (800) 776-2706 or (800) 370-LEAD (5323).