Lead poisoning in children - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Lead poisoning in children

KTTC-DT -- Minnesota Governor. Tim Pawlenty has proclaimed Oct. 3 through 9 as Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Week in Minnesota, in concert with the National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week Oct. 24 through 30.

Throughout October, the Minnesota Department of Health will join a number of public health agencies and community partners around the state in celebrating past accomplishments and acknowledging the work yet to be done in reducing lead hazards for children.

Children who are exposed to lead and have elevated blood lead levels can face a myriad of potential health issues. Even at relatively low levels, lead can slow a child's growth, damage hearing, cause behavior problems and make it harder for children to concentrate or do well in school. At higher levels, children can face irreversible, serious neurological and other health effects and even death.

In 1995, more than 4,000 children under the age of 6 in Minnesota had elevated blood lead levels, but by 2009, that number dropped to 778 due to efforts to reduce lead exposures for children and get more children screened and tested.

Events in various communities will celebrate this significant decline over the last 15 years in the number of children with high blood lead levels, while recognizing that there is more that can be done to reduce and eliminate lead hazards for children.

"We're not at zero yet, and if even one child has elevated blood lead levels, it's one child too many," said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Sanne Magnan. "Lead poisoning remains a significant, yet entirely preventable, health problem facing children in our state and nation."

The overall aim of Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is to build awareness in communities about childhood lead poisoning and to get parents, health care providers, housing authorities, building and construction interests, educators and others working together to prevent children from being exposed to lead in the environment.

In the Twin Cities area, two major events are planned. The Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support will host a community event from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 6 at Harrison Community Center, 503 Irving Ave. N. in Minneapolis. St. Paul-Ramsey County Public Health will hold an event from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7 at Greater Frogtown Community Development Corporation, 533 North Dale St., St. Paul. Education and outreach activities are happening throughout the state. For information on events in your area, contact your local public health agency.

Lead-based paint in older homes remains the primary source of lead poisoning for children. In Minnesota, there are an estimated 1 million homes that contain lead paint. But other sources exist as well: lead in toys, chalk, plumbing and even some foods.

If you're concerned your child may be at risk for lead poisoning, consult your local public health agency or your doctor to determine your child's lead exposure and whether you need to have your child tested. Your local public health agency can also help you learn how to reduce and prevent lead exposures in your home or neighborhood.

For more information, visit the Minnesota Department of Health lead website at <http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/lead/index.html>.

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