MARYLAND HIGHLIGHTS LEAD POISONING PREVENTION WEEK
New action level, demonstrated effectiveness of universal testing provide health protection for Maryland children; Significant progress has been made in reducing illnesses, but one case is one too many
BALTIMORE (Oct. 24, 2022) – In commemoration of Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, the Maryland Department of the Environment, together with the Maryland Department of Health, the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, urges Marylanders to continue to be vigilant in working toward eliminating this preventable disease affecting our children.
The partnership is highlighting the importance of a new, lower action level to trigger medical case management of children with lead poisoning, along with a recent evaluation that suggests that an enhanced testing program begun several years ago is effective and should be maintained. These steps to protect public health and Maryland children were highlighted at an event today in Baltimore.
Governor Larry Hogan has proclaimed Oct. 23-29 Lead Poisoning Prevention Week in Maryland.
A national leader in lead poisoning prevention, with a new action level
Maryland is a national leader in reducing the risk of childhood lead poisoning from lead-based paint and dust. The state has made significant progress to reduce the number of children with elevated blood lead levels by more than 98% since 1996.
To better protect Maryland children from further lead exposure, effective October 28 the blood lead level that triggers notifications to parents and property owners and medical case management for children will decrease from 5 to 3.5 micrograms/deciliter. This level is intended to identify children with higher levels of blood than most children, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A lower level is a reflection of national and state progress in reducing childhood lead exposures, particularly due to lead paint exposure. This new lower level means there will be additional children identified who may benefit from state and local resources available to help families with lead-exposed children.
Preliminary data shows that 1,391 Maryland children were identified in 2021 as having blood lead levels at or above 5 micrograms/deciliter.
“Maryland has made tremendous progress in reducing childhood lead poisoning, but one case of this completely preventable disease is one case too many,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Horacio Tablada. “The keys to continue progress are universal testing, strong enforcement, an emphasis on responding to lower levels of lead poisoning and, most importantly, a high degree of awareness amongst all Marylanders.”
In addition to lead-based paint hazards, children can be exposed to lead from such sources as cosmetics, spices, water in older pipes, travel outside of the United States, jewelry, toys, ceramics and parental occupation. These exposures can cause irreversible and life-long health effects. Even small amounts of lead in the blood can lead to impaired memory, decreased academic performance, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, and other behavioral disorders.
Under the Maryland lead law, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE): assures compliance with mandatory requirements for lead risk reduction in rental units built before 1978; maintains a statewide online 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. 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.
Testing and coordinated outreach efforts – the case for universal testing
In 2015, the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) announced a new Targeting Plan for Areas at Risk for Childhood Lead Poisoning, then issued new regulations calling for all Maryland children to be tested at ages 1 and 2 years, no matter where they live. A recent evaluation by MDH shows that the new regulations increased lead testing rates, especially in areas where testing had not been required under the previous testing plan. However, COVID-19 has caused significant declines in test rates across the state, and MDH is continuing the current policy of testing all children at ages 1 and 2 years.
MDH has also expanded its Medicaid-funded home visiting program for children with lead poisoning to two additional counties –Anne Arundel and Montgomery –to provide additional services to children with lead poisoning. MDH also continues to work with the Department of Housing and Community Development, using Medicaid to fund removal of lead from homes where children have been poisoned.
“The Maryland Department of Health is proud of the work that Maryland is doing to reduce childhood lead poisoning in Maryland,” said MDH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Dr. Jinlene Chan. “We know that lead poisoning can harm a child developmentally and affect them throughout their lifetime. We also know that lead poisoning is related to housing quality, and we are strengthening our partnership with the Department of Housing and Community Development through our Medicaid program to help remove lead from homes using the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”
Lead abatement improves health outcomes
Funded through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, federal and state funds are provided to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to remove lead hazards in homes throughout the state. Maryland families currently eligible or enrolled in Medicaid or Maryland’s Children’s Health Program with a child under age 19 exposed to lead may be eligible to have lead hazards removed at no cost.
DHCD supports the work of lead abatement professionals for the Healthy Homes for Healthy Kids Program to remove the hazards across the state.
“With our partners MDE and MDH, as well as in the community, we work to ensure homes across Maryland are safe for families and lead-free,” said DHCD Deputy Secretary Owen McEvoy. “These funds support the work of lead abatement professionals and ensure DHCD and its contractors can continue to evaluate homes and remove lead from properties statewide.”
“Lead poisoning is entirely preventable. Maryland’s lowering of the blood lead reference level to 3.5 µg/dl is a critical step toward eradicating this tragic, costly, and very real problem that damages brain development and undermines the ability of our children to reach their full potential.” said Ruth Ann Norton, President and CEO, Green & Healthy Homes Initiative and Chair of Maryland’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Commission. “We must remember that there is no safe level of lead and as such primary prevention is the only cure. To that end, GHHI is launching its 1,000 Healthy Homes Project that will create a whole-house model for Maryland for healthy, lead-safe and climate friendly home repairs.”
In time for Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, MDE unveiled a video, MDE Leading the Charge in Preventing Childhood Lead Poisoning.
Maryland Department of the Environment Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
Maryland Department of Health Information on Childhood Lead Testing
Maryland Department of Health Services for Children with Lead Poisoning — Home Visiting, Lead Abatement Services
Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development
Green & Healthy Homes Initiative
Lead Poisoning Prevention Week proclamation
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