National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

    Nearly a quarter of a million children living in the United States have blood lead levels high enough to cause significant damage to their health, estimates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based upon data from a 2003-2004 national survey. Major sources of lead exposure among U.S. children are lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust found in deteriorating buildings.

    Despite the continued presence of lead in the environment, lead poisoning is entirely preventable. All children entering school in Mercer County should have been tested for lead, preferably between the ages of one and two. Children at this age are known to put their fingers and toys in their mouths, increasing their risk for lead exposure. A child that lives or moves into a home that was built prior to 1978 is at elevated risk because of the use of lead-based paint. Precautions should be taken when renovating older homes to reduce the risk of lead exposure. Mercer County has been identified as a high risk county in the State of Illinois.

    To increase awareness of childhood lead poisoning prevention, the Mercer County Health Dept. along with the CDC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, is participating in National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW) Oct. 23-29.

    This year's NLPPW theme, "Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future," underscores the importance of testing your home, testing your child, and learning how to prevent lead poisoning's serious health effects.

    In observance of NLPPW, events such as state proclamations, lead screenings, lead-awareness community events, and educational campaigns will be conducted nationwide. Mercer County Health Department offers free lead screening to toddlers with an Illinois Medical card. Children with private insurance will be charged a fee to cover the lab testing fee.

    Parents can reduce a child's exposure to lead in many ways. Here are some simple things you can do to help protect your family:

1. Get your home tested. Before you buy an older home, ask for a lead inspection.

2. Get your child tested. Even if your young children seem healthy, ask your doctor/local health department to test them for lead.

3. Get the facts! Your local health department can provide you with helpful information about preventing childhood lead poisoning. Contact Mercer County Health Dept. at 309-582-3759.