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DHS News March 2012 | PDF Icon DHS News March 2012    

Get the Lead Out!

Historic homes are one of Allegheny County’s most beautiful assets; however, the lead found in these homes’ paint and pipes may present a danger to young children.

Childhood lead poisoning is a major health issue in the United States, affecting a quarter of a million children. Since children often have a tendency to put their hands and other objects that may have lead dust on them in their mouth, they are at a higher risk of exposure than adults. Additionally, children’s bodies absorb more lead, and their brain and nervous systems are more sensitive to lead. While lead poisoning often does not have any symptoms, severe lead poisoning may cause seizures, brain damage, decreased hearing, hyperactivity, developmental problems, coma and even death.

As a way to increase awareness of lead exposure’s damaging effects, DHS - in partnership with the Allegheny County Health Department, Head Start, Early Head Start, and Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts - has designed an informational postcard that will be mailed to the estimated 20,000 families in Allegheny County with children under the age of five.

“We want to let parents and caregivers know that it is very important for them to get their children screened for lead poisoning, ideally between 12 and 24 months of age, but certainly by the age of six,” said Mickey Bradley, Head Start Program Specialist in the Office of Community Services (OCS). “While there is not a cure for lead poisoning, a simple blood test can determine the child’s risk and help to reduce long-term effects.”

Both Early Head Start and Head Start are now requiring lead poisoning screenings for all program participants. Children enrolled in Early Head Start before the age of 12 months must get tested before they reach two years of age. The Head Start program requires that children between the ages of 36 months and 72 months must receive a screening blood lead test if they have not been previously screened for lead poisoning.

In addition to testing children for lead poisoning, parents and caregivers should be aware of lead dangers in their homes. The most common places to find lead are in the paint and pipes of buildings constructed prior to 1978. Lead can also be found in garden hoses; some homemade remedies; and imported crayons, toys and cooking vessels. Exposure is caused by inhaling or swallowing lead dust or contaminated soil; eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with lead; or swallowing lead paint chips.

For more information on the Head Start and Early Head Start lead poisoning requirements, please call the Early Childhood Education Program Hotline at 1-866-214-KIDS.

Get the Lead Out! Card

PDF Icon Get the Lead Out! Card

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