"Get the Lead Out of Vermont" Initiative Launched by Office of the Attorney General and the Health Department

DATE: January 19, 2006
Contact: Communication Office

BURLINGTON - The Vermont Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Health have launched a coordinated statewide initiative to decrease the exposure of Vermont's children to lead.

Attorney General William H. Sorrell and Health Commissioner Dr. Paul Jarris announced the creation of the "Get The Lead Out of Vermont" initiative during a half-day meeting today at the Pavilion Auditorium in Montpelier.

Attorney General Sorrell and Dr. Jarris charged a joint task force to research and evaluate the myriad of issues surrounding lead poisoning, and to develop recommendations aimed at dramatically reducing the prevalence of childhood lead poisoning in Vermont.

"Vermont's lead law is more than 12 years old and needs to be reviewed for its continuing effectiveness," said Attorney General Sorrell. "We are working cooperatively with the Health Department and numerous stakeholders to develop new approaches to eliminating childhood blood lead poisoning in Vermont."

Participants invited to the meeting included housing and medical professionals, landlords, academics, and child advocates.

"Through this task force we will accelerate our ongoing efforts to address lead abatement as a serious public health concern through more proactive prevention," said Dr. Jarris. "More than 300 children in Vermont are poisoned each year by ingesting lead. The numbers of children affected by lead poisoning has leveled out and is no longer declining at the rate we would like to see."

The state increased testing between 1994 and 2004 as the percentage of tested children who had elevated lead levels in their blood dropped from 9.1 percent to 3.3 percent. Nearly 80 percent of the state's 1-year-olds and approximately 35 percent of 2-year-olds are currently screened for lead.

Increased testing, education and outreach, training of property owners and day care providers, support of local lead poisoning prevention initiatives and case management for all lead poisoned children has helped mitigate the problem.

The majority of childhood lead poisoning cases in Vermont can be attributed to lead dust and chips from paint from older housing. Vermont has one of the oldest housing stocks in the nation.

A more aggressive approach to prevention, which will include identifying possible shortcomings in the state's lead safety law, will be explored in order to significantly decrease the number of children impacted each year.