Lead Poisoning & Exposure

Today at least 4 million households have children living in them that are being exposed to high levels of lead. Lead poisoning is a serious health issue for many young children and their families. Lead has been shown to be particularly harmful to children younger than six years with lead causing damage to the brain and developmental delay. Currently, only 3% of children in Utah are being tested for lead exposure and thousands of Utah families are living in households that could have lead hazards such as lead based paint.

Overview

Exposure to lead can increase a child’s risk for:

  • Damage to the brain and nervous system
  • Slowed growth and development
  • Learning and behavior problems
  • Hearing and speech problems

It’s not easy to tell if a child has been lead-poisoned. The symptoms of lead poisoning can sometimes been seen in otherwise healthy children, including:​

  • Loss of appetite
  • Hyperactivity
  • Irritability
  • Stomach aches

Some children may have no signs or symptoms at all. The only way to know for sure if a child has been poisoned is to get the child tested for lead.

Lead Testing

All children should have their blood lead levels tested at 1 and 2 in order to detect if they are being regularly exposed to lead. When caught early, the harms of lead poisoning can be prevented.

Currently, only 3% of children are being tested for lead exposure in Utah. Salt Lake County offers free blood lead testing to qualifying families as well as all blood lead testing is covered by Medicaid and most insurances.

UPHE has recently worked with the Utah Lead Coalition to decrease the definition of elevated blood lead reflecting the CDC’s recommendation of greater than or equal to 5 micrograms per deciliter, a huge step in helping limit the impact of lead poisoning in Utah.

Where does lead poisoning come from?

Lead is a naturally occurring metal that is found in many different products. Lead poisoning usually comes from lead-based paint used in homes built before 1978. When this paint peels and chips, it becomes lead dirt or dust and can get into children’s bodies when they put hands and toys into their mouths. Lead can also be brought into the house by pets and on toys, shoes, work clothes, or uniforms.

Lead Safe Housing Program

UPHE is working with Salt Lake County’s Lead Safe Housing program to help decrease the impact of lead poisoning on Utah children by offering free lead testing and free home lead remediation to qualifying families. Due to a HUD and CDC grant, we are able to repaint the interiors and exteriors of homes, replace windows and replace carpets for free if we detect sources of lead in the home. If you can answer yes to the questions listed below you may qualify for these free services!

  • Do you live in a home or rental built before 1978?
  • Are you pregnant or have a child under the age of six living in, or visiting your home?
  • Is you household income at or below the qualifying level listed to the right?

If you or someone you know qualifies for this program please call Salt Lake County at 385-468-4892 or visit their website  https://slco.org/lead-safe-housing/ to learn more about this life changing program.

Resources

Salt Lake County Lead Safe Housing https://slco.org/lead-safe-housing/

Utah Lead Coalition https://utahleadcoalition.org/

CDC: Managing Elevated Blood Levels Among Young Children: https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/casemanagement/managingEBLLs.pdf

CDC Lead Program https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/default.htm

Deseret New Op Ed https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900075744/guest-opinion-utahns-should-be-more-diligent-in-testing-for-lead-poisoning.html

References

https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/default.htm

https://www.phila.gov/services/mental-physical-health/environmental-health-hazards/get-your-child-tested-for-lead/

https://slco.org/lead-safe-housing/