For Immediate Release: April 30, 2008
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
BURLINGTON – Vermonters rushing to complete seasonal painting and renovation projects this summer are reminded to take precautionary steps to protect young children, and themselves, from exposure to lead.
As many as 1,600 Vermont children in 2007 were exposed to levels of lead that could cause health problems. Children under age 6 are at highest risk because their bodies are developing and they absorb lead more easily. Most of childhood lead poisoning cases are caused by lead dust and paint chips from older housing, and Vermont has one of the oldest housing stocks in the nation.
Lead is a highly toxic metal commonly found in paint in buildings built before 1978. Unsafe renovation and remodeling practices spread lead dust, which is extremely hazardous. In homes built before 1978, assume the paint contains lead. Do not dry scape, dry sand, power wash or use a heat gun. Lead can also be a hazard outside the home, including dust and chips that get into the soil where children play.
The Health Department urges homeowners, renters, contractors, and landowners to stay up-to-date with lead-safe remodeling and renovating practices. The Vermont Housing and Conservation board offers financial and technical assistance for qualified property owners, free classes and has guides and information on the web at LeadSafeVermont.org.
Lead is an invisible threat and it is common for children with unsafe blood-lead levels to show no obvious symptoms. The only way to know a child’s blood-lead level is to have a blood-lead test. The Vermont Department of Health recommends obtaining a blood lead test on all children at ages 1 and 2.
“A simple finger stick is all that’s required for a lead test and this can be done by the child’s health care provider,” said Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt, RN, MSN. “Lead screening tests are generally covered by health insurance, including Medicaid and Dr. Dynasaur.”
For more information on blood lead testing or protecting children from lead, visit the Vermont Department of Health website at healthvermont.gov, then choose A Healthy Environment and Lead Poisoning Prevention, or go to: http://www.healthvermont.gov/enviro/lead/lead.aspx, or call 1-800-439-8550.