Lead poisoning numbers in Maryland’s children continue to drop as new state law takes effect in October to accelerate the decline
Governor Larry Hogan proclaims Lead Poisoning Prevention Week in Maryland
BALTIMORE, MD (October 23, 2019) – The number of Maryland children with elevated levels of lead in their blood last year decreased by nearly 14 percent, according to the 2018 Childhood Blood Lead Surveillance report, released today by the Maryland Department of the Environment.
The number of children six and under with the state law-defined elevated level of blood lead of between 5 and 9 micrograms per deciliter fell from 1,661 in 2017 to 1,435 in 2018. The number of children in the same age group who had levels of 10 or more micrograms per deciliter was basically unchanged from 388 in 2017 to 390 in 2018.
Another of the year’s highlights was a new state law effective Oct. 1, 2019, that will assist the Department of the Environment’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. House Bill 1233 requires the agency to notify parents, guardians and owners of properties where children who have elevated levels of lead reside. Beginning July 1, 2020, children identified with blood levels of 5 micrograms per deciliter or more will receive case management.
Although many residential rental units have removed lead-based paint hazards and been made lead free during the last 40 years, some untreated units that may cause lead exposure in young residents remain. A significant number of cases of lead exposure have occurred outside the United States due to imported cosmetics and spices, according to the report.
Meanwhile, as childhood lead poisoning cases in Maryland remain at their lowest levels since data has been collected in connection with the state’s 1994 lead law, blood lead testing rates have increased significantly under the state’s universal testing initiative and the 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. For example, testing numbers increased more than 85 percent from the 2010-2015 period to 2018 in Howard, Frederick, Harford and Carroll counties and between 50 and 75 percent in Anne Arundel, Queen Anne’s, Charles and Calvert counties. The Department of the Environment 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.
The annual report can be found on the Department of Environment’s website and the agency coordinates 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 20-26 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 https://mde.maryland.gov/programs/Land/LeadPoisoningPrevention/Pages/index.aspx
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.
Moreover, the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Land Restoration Program is reducing, effective July 1, 2020, the residential soil lead screening standard for brownfield redevelopment properties from 400 to 200 parts per million. This will further ensure that lead levels in soils are reduced to within acceptable levels.
Department of Housing and Community Development’s 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 2019, the program helped abate lead in 47 homes for $1,937,323.
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, 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 also will provide durable goods to assist with maintaining and meeting the health goals.
“Lead has no boundaries but we are making real progress in protecting children from poisoning. With universal testing, enhanced monitoring at homes and schools, strong enforcement, and innovative partnerships, we can eliminate this entirely preventable disease.”
– Ben Grumbles, Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment
“The Maryland Department of Health is a proud partner in the collaborative effort to reduce and eliminate childhood lead poisoning in Maryland. Through coordinated programs and outreach, the number of children who are tested for lead poisoning continues to increase, while the rates of children exposed to elevated levels of lead has continued to decrease.”
– Robert R. Neall, Secretary, Maryland Department of Health
“The partnership of Maryland Department of Environment, Maryland Department of Health and Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development with the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative in helping to reduce lead poisoning continues to show progress in reducing lead levels of children at 5 micrograms per deciliter and above but we must now target greater resources at the homes and sources of lead that we know remain hazardous. It is far past time to bring an end to the toxic legacy of lead poisoning in Maryland.”
– Ruth Ann Norton, President and CEO, Green & Healthy Homes Initiative
2018 Maryland Childhood Lead Registry Annual Surveillance Report
Graphic: Childhood blood lead surveillance statewide 1993-2018
Graphic: Childhood blood lead surveillance Baltimore City 1993-2018
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
Green & Healthy Homes Initiative
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