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The Revolution to Prevent Lead Poisoning in Children

What is it?

Lead poisoning is the elevation of lead within the body. Any child with an Elevated Blood Lead Level (EBL) higher than 5 micrograms per deciliter is considered to be at risk and health actions should be made.

Potential Sources of Lead Exposure

Deteriorating lead-based paint is identified as the most probable cause of elevated blood lead levels in people in the vast majority of ODH’s environmental assessments. Elevated lead levels in drinking water is rarely the most probable cause of lead poisoning.

There are numerous potential sources of lead exposure:

  • Cosmetics containing lead

  • Foods containing lead

  • Hobbies that include using lead-based materials

  • Lead dust

  • Occupations that involve exposure to lead

  • Soil contaminated with lead

  • Toys containing lead such as lead-based paint

  • Water with elevated lead levels

  • Other sources

Symptoms and Complications:

Lead is much more harmful to children than adults because it can affect children's developing nerves and brains. The younger the child, the more harmful lead can be. Unborn children are the most vulnerable.

Possible complications include:

  • Behavior or attention problems

  • Failure at school

  • Hearing problems

  • Kidney damage

  • Reduced IQ

  • Slowed body growth

The symptoms of lead poisoning may include:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping (usually the first sign of a high, toxic dose of lead poison)

  • Aggressive behavior

  • Anemia

  • Constipation

  • Difficulty getting pregnant

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Headaches

  • Hearing loss

  • Irritability

  • Loss of previous developmental skills (in young children)

  • Low appetite and energy

  • Reduced sensations

  • Very high levels of lead may cause vomiting, staggering walk, muscle weakness, seizures, or coma

Why this is important to Northeast Ohio:

Children under the age of six are at the most risk of lead poisoning and the Cleveland area represents one of the largest concentrations of lead poisoning. Cleveland has far more children that have been poisoned by lead and two times the percentage of children tested here in Cleveland were poisoned by lead than in Flint, Michigan at the height of their crisis. This problem has been around for quite some time and there is still not a requirement that children should be tested for lead and only a recommendation of testing. In an article written by Rachel Dissell and Brie Zeltner (2015), this was in part due to the lack of leadership in Cleveland. While many leaders in the Cleveland area are working on lead poisoning nearly 2/3’s of children are at risk for lead poisoning and are not being screened, while a third to a half are predicted as already having lead poisoned. This lack of requirement for screening is of concern.

Prevention Tips

Dealing with Child’s diagnosis of Lead Poisoning

NEOBHC’s Contribution

Yvonka Hall, Executive Director of NEOBHC is currently a board member of the Cleveland Lead Safe Network. The Cleveland Lead Safe Network “seeks to protect children from lead poisoning due to deteriorated lead paint and lead dust, and empower families in finding lead-safe homes. The Network is composed of diverse individuals and organizational stakeholders committed to mobilizing and supporting survivor households. With its family focus, Network members pledge to engage and hold our local government accountable to its responsibility for protecting our children. In addition to the Cleveland Lead Safe Network, Ms. Hall is a part of the Greater University Circle Community Health Initiative (GUCCHI) who works with “professionals to stop infant mortality and lead poisoning in Greater University Circle neighborhoods.”

NEOBHC has continued to accomplish their mission by educating, advocating, and empowering those residing in Northeast Ohio about lead poisoning. NEOBHC is working with public, private and community members to change the policy on lead testing in Cleveland. This policy shift is important to fighting the lead crisis. If we continue to do what we are currently doing thousands of more children will be impacted. It is important to hold our legislators accountable. No longer will we sit idle and not demand that all available resources are used to ensure the safety of our children. The dollars that are currently collected and future rental fees have to be directed to a fund to help fight the disproportionate burden of lead poisoning cases in the city. If we can demand a registry for dogs we can demand a registry for our children. This is why NEOBHC is advocating for the creation and management of a housing registry for houses to get tested for lead instead of waiting for the children to be poisoned and then stepping to test houses. This current structure is absolutely backwards and we must right this terrible wrong.

For more information on the Cleveland Lead Safe Network and GUCCHI.

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