For Immediate Release: October 19, 2006
Media Contact: Communication Office
BURLINGTON - During National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, Oct. 22 – 28, the Vermont Department of Health will continue to expand its statewide effort to remind landlords with rental housing built before 1978 of their obligation to comply with requirements under the Vermont Lead Law (18 V.S.A. § 1759).
A total of 266 children in Vermont had elevated blood lead levels in 2005, down from a total of 349 children in 2004.
“A more aggressive approach to lead poisoning prevention is underway,” said Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt, RN, MSN. “Our focus in recent months has shifted from voluntary compliance and education to enforcement and education. This is a public health hazard that is easily preventable. Rental properties and child care facilities must come into compliance with essential maintenance practices and eliminate the areas of risk.”
Essential maintenance includes ensuring that lead-based paint and potential hazards are kept in good condition, safely repairing and stabilizing deteriorating paint surfaces and taking precautions to avoid creating lead hazards during any renovation, remodeling, maintenance or repair project.
In Vermont, lead paint and dust from lead paint are the major sources of lead poisoning in children. Most children become poisoned by eating lead-paint dust from their hands, toys, or other objects that they put in their mouths. The majority of lead poisoning cases can be attributed to paint from housing built before 1978. Nearly 70 percent of Vermont homes were built before 1978.
The Town of Rockingham, near Bellows Falls, recorded the highest percentage of elevated blood levels of children tested between 1997 and 2005 (15 %). A pilot lead prevention initiative was launched in Bellows Falls in July 2006.
“The pilot project in Bellows Falls showed us that while our list of rental property owners was imperfect and needed to be refined, the overall program and effectiveness in reducing lead exposure should be a success,” Moffatt said. “The Vermont lead law has been in effect for 12 years now and a continued focus on education and enforcement of the law are key to reducing lead levels.”
The Health Department estimates that 90 percent of the approximately 280 landlords of pre-1978 housing in Bellows Falls will soon be in full compliance with the lead law.
Landlords in the Town of Richford, in Franklin County, will be the next town for focused education and enforcement by the Health Department. Richford has the second highest level (12.8 percent) of childhood lead poisoning in the state.
Screening and testing for lead poisoning is another key component of the Health Department’s drive to eliminate childhood blood lead poisoning. More than 75 percent of the state’s 1-year-old children and 37 percent of 2-year-old children are currently screened. The state ramped up testing efforts between 1994 and 2005 and the percentage of tested children who had elevated lead levels in their blood dropped from 13 percent to 3 percent.
“We will continue to work with families and health care providers to have lead testing as part of every child’s health profile,” Moffatt said.
For more information on lead poisoning in Vermont visit the Department of Health’s website at healthvermont.gov.