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This past week was National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. Chaffee County Public Health (CCPH) has spent the last year participating in outreach and educational activities designed to raise local awareness about the danger of lead exposure and poisoning and educate parents. This educational effort aimed to inform parents on how to reduce exposure to lead in their environment, prevent its serious health effects, and learn about the importance of testing children for lead.

Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future (Photo courtesy of CDC)

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The goal of the National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is to encourage organized, local community events, and to empower families and other stakeholders to take action.

CCPH nurse Emily Anderson said in a press release provided by CCPH, “With Chaffee County’s history of mining and smelting, along with the fact that many residents live in older homes, lead poisoning prevention for children is an essential role of Public Health.”

According to CCPH, about 3.6 million American households have children under 6, who live in homes with lead exposure hazards.

According to the CDC, about 500,000 American children between the ages of 1 and 5 years have blood lead levels greater than or equal to the level of blood reference value, the level at which CDC recommends public health actions.  In Colorado, 1 in 30 children are tested for lead poisoning have elevated blood lead levels.  Many children are also not being tested.

Lead can be found inside and outside the home, including in the water that travels through lead pipes or in the soil around the house. However, the most common source of exposure is from lead-based paint, which was used in many homes built before 1978. Adults and children can get lead into their bodies by breathing in the lead dust (especially during activities such as renovations, repairs or painting) or by swallowing lead dust that settles in food, food preparation surfaces, floors, window sills, and other places, or eating paint chips or soil that contain lead. Children can also become exposed to lead dust from adults’ jobs or hobbies, and from some metal toys or toys painted with lead-based paint.

CCPH says that the problem is largely preventable with increased testing and education and that if your child is under the age of six and never had their blood tested for lead, please consider talking with your doctor to see if testing is indicated.  Those looking for more information have been encouraged by Chaffee County Public Health to contact them at  (719) 539-4510 and ask to speak with a nurse.