The Calhoun County Lead Poisoning Prevention Task Force today released a report about the dangers of lead-based paint, especially for children, and an action plan for addressing this issue.
Public health providers and government officials from across the county in January of this year formed the Lead Poisoning Prevention Task Force in response to renewed community concerns about lead poisoning. While this was, in part, a reaction to the Flint water crisis, the cause in Calhoun County is lead-based paint; much of our housing stock is pre-1978, the year the federal government banned lead in residential pain products.
The primary sources of lead exposure for children are still deteriorating lead-based paint, lead-contaminated dust, and lead-contaminated residential soil. More than 80 percent of Battle Creek’s housing stock was built before 1978.
Children under age 6 are at greatest risk of lead poisoning because they are growing rapidly and tend to put their hands and objects in their mouths. Children from all social and economic levels can be affected by lead poisoning, though children living at or below the poverty level, who live in older housing, are most often at risk. In the last five years, more than 300 Calhoun County children under age 6 have been poisoned by lead.
A free, public opportunity to learn more about this will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. this Thursday, Oct. 27 at the Kool Family Community Center, 200 W. Michigan Ave. Guiding the conversation will be Tina Reynolds, the health policy director at the Michigan Environmental Council and coalition manager for the Michigan Alliance for Lead Safe Homes.
The task force is presenting the nearly 60-page report to outline the dangers of and increased remediation of lead poisoning in children. Lead in the human body can cause lower IQ, hyperactivity, learning disabilities, hearing problems and, in higher levels, can cause convulsions, coma and death.
The report also reviews the water quality from the county’s municipal water systems, showing that our local water sources are treated with the proper levels of phosphates, are regularly tested, and have low-to-no lead present. Private well water and older homes with possible lead and copper service lines from the public water source also should be tested. For more information and assistance with testing, call the Calhoun County Public Health Department at 269-969-6341.
The task force Plan of Action includes the following goals:
Increase lead testing and reporting for children in Calhoun County
Promote universal screening for elevated blood lead levels for all children under age 6 and increase the number of children who are tested, including those covered by Medicaid and those with private health insurances.
Continue to engage families of children who have elevated blood lead levels to reduce or eliminate the long-term effects of lead poisoning.
Increase the reporting of testing by private physicians by implementing a county-wide memorandum of understanding about communicating lead test results and lead education between health care providers and the Calhoun County Public Health Department.
Increase lead awareness and public education about the threats of lead poisoning to children
Work with schools annually to provide and develop lead educational sessions for students and parents about how kids are exposed to lead, how to prevent lead poisoning, and what to do if exposed.
Develop a public education campaign to disseminate information related to child testing, lead hazards in homes, and poisoning prevention techniques.
Expand the resources for remediating lead in homes and the environment
Provide local agencies quarterly outcome data related to child testing, lead hazards in homes, and intervention activities, and produce an annual report that evaluates strategies and communicates progress toward goals.
Develop capacity county-wide to conduct lead assessments at all properties suspected of being a source of exposure for a child with an elevated blood lead level, and remediate sources of lead poisoning when lead hazards are identified.
Work with local government and the state to strengthen the regulatory framework regarding lead hazards in homes and the environment.
The task force plans to communicate its progress to the community in an annual report. The hope of the task force is that this plan will help agencies apply for grant funding from local organizations, the state and the federal government to gain more resources for testing, public education and housing remediation.
Read the full report on the city’s website, www.battlecreekmi.gov. Scroll down the home page to the City Spotlight section. You’ll also find it by navigating to Your Government, Departments, Community Services, Community Development, Special Reports.