Health Department Starts New Outreach Efforts to Families with Children Exposed to Lead

For Immediate Release: Nov. 14, 2007
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON - On February 1, 2007, the State of Vermont became the first in the nation to lower the blood lead level of concern from 10 micrograms per deciliter to 5. Approximately 2,600 Vermont children have blood lead levels 5 or greater each year.

This month, the Vermont Department of Health started to reach out to families with children who have reported blood lead levels between 5 and 9 to identify and eliminate sources of lead exposure.

Families will receive a self-guided checklist of sources of lead and are encouraged to call the Department of Health for consultation.

This new effort expands on current services that include providing home visits to families with children with confirmed blood lead levels 10 or greater.

“By lowering the level of concern and continuing to push for universal testing of 1- and 2-year old children, Vermont will be at the forefront of prevention efforts nationwide,” said Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt, RN, MSN. “This is a serious public health concern. Elevated levels put children at risk for learning disabilities, behavior problems and more serious health effects.”

Vermont is also pushing for universal lead testing of all 1 and 2-year old children. In 2006, more than 77 percent of 1-year olds and 42 percent of 2-year-olds were tested for lead.

The new threshold for public health action is part of Vermont’s comprehensive “Get the Lead Out ” initiative. The initiative was launched in January 2006 by the Health Department and the Vermont Office of the Attorney General.

The majority of childhood lead poisoning cases can be attributed to lead dust and chips from paint from houses built before 1978, and Vermont has one of the oldest housing stocks in the nation.

“To avoid exposure it is essential for owners of older properties to maintain them in good condition using lead safe work practices and to do regular thorough cleaning,” said Ron Rupp, director of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board’s Lead Hazard Reduction Program.

Technical and financial assistance are available to eligible property owners through the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and the City of Burlington’s Lead Program.

“We’ve made great progress in preventing exposure and testing children for lead, but there is still significant work to be done,” Commissioner Moffatt said. “We’re not going to be satisfied until the rate of childhood lead poisoning in Vermont is zero.”

For more information go to the Department of Health’s website at healthvermont.gov or visit www.leadsafevermont.org.

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