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EPA Commemorates 10 Years of Children’s Health Lead-poisoning Prevention Program Regional Success Story


By Donald S. Welsh, EPA Regional Administrator
Children may be just a third of the world’s population, but they are 100 percent of our future. Each October, EPA celebrates Children’s Health Month. With school in full swing, this is a perfect time to focus on the important work that parents, communities, and public agencies are doing to protect our children.

This year EPA is commemorating 10 years of working to improve the environmental health of children – an important effort because children may be more vulnerable to sources of pollution than adults.

Their neurological, immunological, respiratory, digestive and other physical systems are still developing. They also breathe more, drink more, and eat more -- just ask any parent who has just gone food shopping -- in proportion to their body size. And because the natural urge of children is to taste and touch as they explore the world, they can potentially be exposed to environmental hazards.

Here in EPA’s mid-Atlantic region, we have worked hard to provide information to parents and teachers on asthma, pesticides, safe drinking water, indoor air quality, and air pollution. Our employees visit classrooms regularly to educate students on environmental topics. And we team up with hospitals and other health organizations to provide information and health testing to parents and children.

Lead Safe Babies is just one of the successful programs EPA’s mid-Atlantic region helped initiate through a grant to the National Nursing Centers Consortium (NNCC). Since 1999, EPA and the National Nursing Centers Consortium have educated families about effective techniques for reducing lead exposure. Trained outreach workers provide home visits to low-income caregivers in at-risk areas. Participating families in Pennsylvania, Maryland and the District of Columbia have significantly increased their knowledge and awareness about lead poisoning and prevention, and report lower blood lead levels than those in the same geographic areas who have not participated. More than 8,000 mothers and babies in the Philadelphia area have benefited from the Lead Safe Babies Program.

But there is still more work to be done. If you live in a house that was built before 1978, you might want to get your children tested and have your home tested for lead. For more information about testing, work practices, renovation, or your rights as a tenant, contact 1-800-424-LEAD.

About one in 22 children in America has high levels of lead in his or her blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The long-term effects of lead in a child can be severe. They include learning disabilities, decreased growth, hyperactivity, impaired hearing, and even brain damage. If caught early, these effects can be limited by reducing exposure to lead or by medical treatment.

You may have lead around your building without knowing it because you can’t see, taste or smell lead. You may have lead in the dust, paint or soil in and around your home. Before we knew how harmful lead could be, it was used in paint, gasoline, water pipes and many other products. Now that we know the dangers, house paint is almost lead-free, leaded gasoline has been phased out, and household plumbing is no longer made with lead materials.


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