The number of Maine households notified of childhood lead exposure has increased tenfold in the first year since the state implemented a new law designed to combat lead poisoning with early intervention.
Households representing 386 children were notified that the children had tested positive for lead exposure in the year that ended in September 2017. Under the new standard established by the law, that’s more than 10 times the number of households that would have been notified if the old standard had still been in place.
Catching lead exposure early helps parents and landlords remediate lead found in buildings and can prevent harmful health problems caused by long-term exposure to lead. Lead poisoning in children can stunt brain development, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, sometimes severely, and can affect “every system in the body.” Lead poisoning can also lead to stunted bone and muscle growth, nervous system and kidney damage and hearing problems.
The law lowers the threshold to start intervention methods from 15 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood to 5 micrograms. The standard is now aligned with U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommendations, and triggers parental notifications. Once lead levels are discovered, the state takes remediation efforts to remove lead hazards, such as lead paint, from the home. Lead paint was banned in the United States in 1978, but states with many older homes and apartments, such as Maine, are more at risk of lead poisoning.
Most at risk are infants and toddlers, which is why pediatricians focus on testing lead levels at age 1 and 2.
The 386 children identified with elevated levels of lead were tested from September 2016 to September 2017. Among that group, 34 of the children tested had more than 15 micrograms of lead – the old standard to notify households.
In many cases, homeowners or landlords are notified and the fixes are simple, such as painting over lead paint and vacuuming up lead…