Lead poisoning in Maryland drops to lowest recorded levels, testing increases dramatically under state initiative

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Jay Apperson

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Lead poisoning in Maryland drops to lowest recorded levels, testing increases dramatically under state initiative

Governor Larry Hogan proclaims Lead Poisoning Prevention Week in Maryland

 

BALTIMORE, MD (October 23, 2018) – Childhood lead poisoning cases in Maryland decreased last year to the lowest levels since data has been collected in connection with the state’s 1994 lead law, according to the 2017 Childhood Blood Lead Surveillance report, released today by the Maryland Department of the Environment.

The historically low levels were reached even as blood lead testing rates increased significantly under the state’s universal testing initiative. MDE continues to work with the Department of Health and the Department of Housing and Community Development, as well as local partners, to prevent childhood lead poisoning in Maryland.

The report showed that less than 0.3 percent of children tested across the state showed blood lead levels at or above the state law-defined elevated level of 10 micrograms per deciliter. For the second straight year, the percentage is the lowest since the beginning of such data collection in 1993. The report also shows a decrease in the number of children with blood levels below the state law-defined elevated level but still of concern based on guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After Maryland began its universal testing initiative for 1- and 2-year-olds in 2016, blood lead testing rates in Maryland for that year increased by 17.8 percent compared to the average for 2010-2015. Testing rates increased again in 2017, to 19.1 percent higher than the average in 2010-2015. The universal testing initiative was announced by the Hogan administration in 2015 in response to data showing that the state could improve its testing and identification of children with lead exposure.

The report attributes the increase in testing of young children to the universal testing initiative and to another Maryland Department of Health initiative to endorse Point of Care testing for lead, which allows healthcare providers to test children and provide results in the same office visit. This simplifies testing for parents and, in most cases, eliminates any additional office visits or testing for lead.

The report also tracks potential sources of lead exposure in reported cases of childhood lead poisoning and finds that while lead-based paint is still the most frequently identified hazard, a significant number of young children with elevated blood lead levels may have been exposed to lead from other sources. Other hazards include exposure to certain cosmetics and spices.

The report’s findings represent a decrease since 1993 of more than 98 percent in the number of young children reported to have lead poisoning. Much of the decline in blood lead levels is the result of implementation and enforcement of Maryland’s 1994 Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Act.

The annual report can be found on MDE’s website.

MDE serves as the coordinating agency for statewide efforts to eliminate childhood lead poisoning. In addition to the new lead testing plan, under the Hogan administration Maryland has moved to protect more children from the health risks associated with lead paint poisoning by enforcing an expansion of the type of rental housing covered by the state’s lead law.

October 21-27 is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. Governor Larry Hogan proclaimed this week as Lead Poisoning Prevention Week in Maryland.Information for parents, rental unit owners and tenants, homeowners and contractors and inspectors can be found on the department’s website at www.mde.maryland.gov/lead.

Childhood lead poisoning is preventable

Exposure to lead is the most significant and widespread environmental hazard for children in Maryland. Children are at the greatest risk from birth to age 6 while their neurological systems are developing. Exposure to lead can cause long-term neurological damage that may be associated with learning and behavioral problems and with decreased intelligence.

Maryland’s lead law requires owners of pre-1978 rental dwelling units to register their properties and reduce the potential for children’s exposure to lead paint hazards by performing specific lead risk reduction treatments before each change in tenancy.

Under the Maryland lead law, the Department of the Environment: assures compliance with mandatory requirements for lead risk reduction in rental units built before 1978; maintains a statewide listing of registered and inspected units; and provides blood lead surveillance through a registry of test results of all children tested in Maryland. The lead program also: oversees case management follow-up by local health departments for children with elevated blood lead levels; certifies and enforces performance standards for inspectors and contractors conducting lead hazard reduction; and performs environmental investigations of lead-poisoned children. The lead program provides oversight for community education to parents, tenants, rental property owners, home owners and health care providers to enhance their roles in lead poisoning prevention. Maryland works in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Baltimore City and other local governments and non-profit organizations such as the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative to prevent childhood lead poisoning.

Department of Housing and Community Developments Lead Hazard Reduction Program

The Special Loans Program of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) continues to make a significant impact on the lead exposure from lead-based paint in pre-1978 housing stock statewide. The Lead Hazard Reduction Loan and Grant Program was established by the Maryland General Assembly in 1986 solely for the purpose to extend loans and grants to eligible individuals, child care centers and sponsors to finance the lead hazard reduction of residential housing units. In Fiscal Year 2018, the program helped abate lead in 109 homes for $1,692,510.

Maryland Department of Health: two programs

The Maryland Department of Health’s (MDH) Healthy Homes for Healthy Kids Program expands on DHCD’s statewide lead abatement activities. Maryland families with a child exposed to lead may be eligible to have lead hazards removed at no cost. Eligibility requirements for the initiative are: a child who has a lead test result of 5 mg/dl; 18 years or younger; lives in or visits in the home or apartment for 10 hours or more a week; and is currently eligible or enrolled in Medicaid or Maryland’s Children’s Health Program.

DHCD will administer the initiative through a network of nonprofits, local agencies, and contractors to help complete the projects. The local health boards and primary care providers will assist in referring the impacted families to the program to get the much-needed repairs completed.

For more information on the Healthy Homes for Healthy Kids Program, visit https://phpa.health.maryland.gov/OEHFP/EH/Pages/CHIPEnvCaseMgmt.aspx, email mdh.healthyhomes@maryland.gov, or call 866-703-3266.

The MDH Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention and Environmental Case Management Program expands environmental case management capacity in local health departments that serve nine counties with the greatest pediatric lead poisoning and asthma burden. Community Health Workers (CHW) from the local health departments conduct home assessments to identify asthma triggers and conditions that contribute to lead poisoning. The CHW can conduct up to six home visits to address medication adherence, nutrition, and safe cleaning techniques in the child’s home. The CHW will also provide durable goods to assist with maintaining and meeting the health goals.

 

Quotes

 

“Lead has no boundaries but we are making real progress in protecting children from lead poisoning. With universal testing, strong enforcement, and innovative partnerships among local, state, and federal agencies and the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative, we can eliminate this entirely preventable disease.”

–  Ben Grumbles, Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment

 

“The Maryland Department of Health, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Environment and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, is making great strides toward reducing and eliminating childhood lead poisoning in Maryland. Through our collaborative efforts, these programs provide home visits and lead abatement resources for Medicaid eligible families across the entire State of Maryland.”

–  Robert R. Neall, Secretary, Maryland Department of Health

 

Additional information

2017 Maryland Childhood Lead Registry Annual Surveillance Report

Graphic: Childhood blood lead surveillance statewide 1993-2017

Graphic: Childhood blood lead surveillance Baltimore City 1993-2017

Lead Poisoning Prevention Week proclamation

Maryland Department of the Environment Lead Poisoning Prevention Program

Maryland Department of Health

Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development

Baltimore City Health Department

U.S. EPA

Green & Healthy Homes Initiative

 

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