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EPA Funds Grant to Combat Childhood Lead Poisoning


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded a $100,000 grant to the Delaware Department of Health and Social Service’s Division of Public Health (DPH) for lead poisoning prevention activities in Wilmington, Del.

EPA Regional Administrator Donald S. Welsh made the presentation today to Lt. Governor John C. Carney, Jr. and Public Health Director Dr. Jaime H. Rivera at the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington.

“While the bad news is that childhood lead poisoning remains a major environmental health problem in the U.S, the good news is that it is preventable,” Welsh said. “Getting young children tested for lead is one of the most important things a parent can do.”

The DPH will use the grant award to purchase and distribute lead dust sampling kits to screen up to 1,000 homes for elevated lead dust levels. The effort, which targets specific zip codes, aims to prevent children from being poisoned by lead dust from peeling, chipping and flaking paint.

“We are pleased that the EPA has recognized the efforts we are making here in Delaware to keep our children safe from lead poisoning. This grant will go a long way in ensuring our state reaches its goal of eliminating childhood poisoning by 2010,” Lt. Governor John C. Carney, Jr. said.

Beneficiaries of the program include pregnant women and families with children up to the age of three years enrolled in the Kids Kare and/or Smart Start programs of Delaware’s Maternal and Child Health Program. The Kids Kare and/or Smart Start programs serve low-income individuals who most often live in older housing that contains lead-based paint.

According to Dr. Lucy Luta, director of the Office of Lead Poisoning Prevention, DPH has contracted with Beautiful Gate Outreach Center of the Bethel AME Church in Wilmington to provide outreach and education services.

DPH has also contracted with BTS Laboratories of Waldorf, Md., to provide 1,000 lead dust test kits, laboratory analysis, and mailing of the results. The easy-to-use kits come with a postage-paid envelope to BTS Laboratories. The laboratory will mail the test results to the families and to the Delaware Office of Lead Poisoning Prevention.

If residences exceed EPA’s lead dust standards, they will receive follow-up visits from DPH and its lead prevention partners: the Latin American Community Center (LACC) and the City of Wilmington. Lead-based paint inspection and risk assessment will be followed by HEPA vacuuming, or the complete removal of lead based paint hazards, which is considered a high-level intervention.

Delaware’s incidence rate of childhood lead poisoning has plummeted from 17 percent in 1994 to 0.58 percent in 2006, Dr. Luta said. Of the 10,375 Delaware children tested for lead poisoning in FY 2006, 60 had elevated blood lead levels (0.58 percent). She credited the success of the program to the team work between DPH and its partners: the City of Wilmington, the LACC, State Medicaid Program, the Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, the Delaware State Housing Authority, and the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, based in Maryland.

Children are at greater risk of lead poisoning if they live or stay in older (built prior to 1978) and poorly maintained housing. Young children, especially toddlers, can ingest lead dust if they place toys and their hands in their mouths. As there are no immediate signs and symptoms of lead poisoning, EPA and DPH recommends that all Delaware children have a blood lead test at or around the age of one year. Left untreated, lead poisoning leads to learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and decreased intelligence. Severe cases of lead poisoning may even result in death.


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