Vermont Calls Attention to Stronger Lead Laws during Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

For Immediate Release: Oct. 20, 2008
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON -  The State of Vermont continues to strengthen its lead poisoning prevention laws with two pieces of legislation passed during the 2007-2008 session that require Vermonters to take additional precautions to protect young children, and themselves, from exposure to lead.

The tougher laws reflect a cooperative effort by the Vermont Department of Health and the Office of the Attorney General to greatly reduce the incidence of lead poisoning. The State of Vermont is highlighting the importance of the two new laws during National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, Oct. 19 – 25.

Act 193 authorizes the Attorney General to enforce strict limits on lead in toys and some other products, and requires posted lead warnings and lead safety handouts in some stores. 

Act 176 requires anyone who renovates a home built before 1978 to use only lead-safe work practices, and prohibits activities such as removing lead-based paint by dry scraping, machine sanding and high-pressure washing.  Act 176 also updates essential maintenance practices that landlords and owners of child care facilities are required to perform annually in pre-1978 buildings, and contains new provisions for screening children for lead. 

The provisions in Act 176 are designed to make the housing stock in Vermont safer. Vermont has one of the oldest housing stocks in the nation, and the majority of childhood lead poisoning cases are caused by lead dust and paint chips from older housing.  Exposure can come from paint chips, water, dust, soil, or building materials.  Lead dust is created by normal daily activities such as opening and closing doors or windows that were originally painted with lead paint.  Even when old paint has been stripped and the home repainted since 1978, opening and closing doors and windows can release lead dust from the original paint into the home.

“Lead poisoning is a preventable health problem, and we need to continue to educate Vermonters about the risks,” said Health Commissioner Wendy Davis, MD. “The new laws will help reduce the amount of lead our children are exposed to in their toys and in their homes and will keep them safer from lead.”

Young children are at highest risk because their developing bodies absorb lead more easily.  Lead dust exposure can have life-long health effects, and can lower a child’s IQ.  In adults, lead can contribute to high blood pressure, miscarriage, and decreased fertility in men. 

“Lead paint is in too many Vermont homes.  The health risks are huge.  We all need to commit to meeting this challenge,” said Attorney General William H. Sorrell.

Commissioner Davis reminds Vermont parents and physicians to test all children for lead at ages 1 and 2.  Lead is an invisible threat, and it is common for children with unsafe blood-lead levels to show no obvious symptoms.  A simple finger stick is all that is required for a lead test and the cost is generally covered by health insurance, including Medicaid and Dr. Dynasaur.

The Health Department’s goal is to have 85 percent of all 1-year-old, and 75 percent of all 2-year-old children tested for lead by 2011. In 2007, 80 percent of 1-year-olds and 44 percent of 2-year-olds were tested for blood lead levels.

The theme of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week—“Let’s Wipe Out Lead Poisoning–Renovate Right!”— underscores Vermont’s updated lead laws.

More information about protecting children from lead, lead-safe work practices, essential maintenance practices requirements for landlords, and guidelines for blood lead screening for health care providers can be found at the Department of Health’s website at healthvermont.gov.

Information is also available in the “Get the Lead Out of Vermont” report on the Vermont Attorney General’s website at: http://www.atg.state.vt.us.

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