Lead Safe Initiative set to launch in July
Health Board approves resolution to address lead exposure
LINCOLN, Neb. (Press Release) - Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and officials with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) and the City Urban Development Department kicked off Lead Safe Lincoln on Wednesday. The project is an initiative to reduce the risk of lead exposure in children through expanded testing, and the identification and removal of lead hazards in homes.
“Today, we are announcing a team approach to prevent lead exposure in our community and keep our children and families safe,” said Mayor Gaylor Baird. “The Lead Safe Lincoln initiative is a partnership among key city and county agencies and our medical community that will result in a healthier future for our residents.”
As part of the Lead Safe Lincoln program, LLCHD will offer lead testing services through its onsite public health clinic beginning July 5. It will also expand testing for children ages one through four who participate in WIC, a public health nutrition program. The starting date for testing that age group will be announced this summer. LLCHD encourages parents and guardians to contact their child’s healthcare provider for lead testing.
Health Director, Pat Lopez said that of 3,000 children ages one through six are tested for lead in the community each year, elevated blood lead levels are detected in more than 100 children annually, and there are many more children who should be tested. There is no safe blood lead level in children, Lopez said, and exposure to lead – a toxic metal – can seriously harm a child’s health.
“Protecting children from lead is important to a lifetime of good health,” Lopez said. “Lead poisoning is preventable, and the Health Department is collaborating with partners to increase testing of children in our community.”
LLCHD will also continue to work closely with the Lancaster County Medical Society and local providers to communicate the importance and recommended frequency of lead testing for children.
Lopez said resources are available to families with children showing elevated lead levels. For the past five years, LLCHD has received grant funds to provide a public health nurse to assist families of children age six and under who test positive for lead.
The Health Department assesses the lead risk, assures access to health care providers for follow-up lead testing, and provides referrals for support services for families. LLCHD also provides lead prevention information and education to parents and guardians, ongoing communication with health care providers for follow-up testing, and in-depth assessments of medical, environmental, nutritional, and developmental needs.
Typically, a child’s elevated blood lead levels are caused by an exposure related to the home environment. Lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust are the most common and hazardous sources for lead in children. Lead-based paint is found in many homes built before 1978. The paint chips as it breaks down, creating lead dust that can contaminate the home and get on children’s hands, toys, bottles, and other objects.
In October 2020, the City of Lincoln was awarded a $3.4 million federal grant to identify and remove lead from the homes of lower-income families. The Urban Development Department partners with LLCHD to conduct lead paint inspections and risk assessments on homes and apartment buildings. If lead hazards are identified, both departments work together to help make the dwelling lead safe.
“Through federal funds, we’re able to provide this program to homeowners and property owners within the city at no cost,” said Dan Marvin, Urban Development Director. “We plan to provide lead remediation to 165 homes over the next three years to help create healthier living environments for children and families.”
The Lincoln-Lancaster County Board of Health formally adopted a resolution to address lead exposure at its meeting on June 14th. The resolution calls for:
- Ensuring that all parents, guardians. and children have equitable access to blood lead testing
- Enhancing communication to parents, guardians, the medical community, and property owners about the health risks of lead for young children
- Continuing collaboration with the Lancaster County Medical Society to provide education and information on the importance and frequency of blood lead level testing for children under the age of six
- Monitoring the rates of elevated blood lead levels, investigating and addressing lead exposures, and identifying areas in Lincoln and Lancaster County on which to focus
- Tracking the impact and outcomes of lead prevention efforts
“The resolution provides a formal framework for childhood lead prevention,” said Sean Flowerday, Lancaster County Commissioner and Board of Health Member. “It’s vital to the health and wellbeing of our community today and the future of our community tomorrow that we take action against this threat.”
General information on lead exposure is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov.
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