You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.


Welcome to

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

Kids in high-risk areas not being tested for lead poisoning

Early prevention key to protecting children, experts say.

Thousands of infants and toddlers across Ohio aren’t getting tested for lead poisoning even though they are at high risk or are living in unsafe homes, an I-Team analysis found.

Less than one-third of the 232,670 children under age 3 living in the 324 ZIP codes identified as having an increased risk of lead poisoning were tested in 2010, according to data obtained by the Ohio Department of Health and census data.

State law requires that they be tested at age 1 and 2.

Early prevention and detection are key to protecting children from severe problems, said John Belt, who administers the lead program for ODH.

“Lead poisoning, although it disproportionately affects low-income children, really passes through all income areas,” he said. “Anyone living in an older home with deferred maintenance runs the risk of their children being poisoned.

“Once a child is lead-poisoned, the neurological damage is permanent.”

But across Ohio, only about 155,000 children have been tested for lead each year since 2010, according to ODH data. Of those, more than 10,000 each year, on average, are found to have what the federal government considers to be elevated blood lead levels. And an average of more than 1,700 children each year have blood lead levels requiring intervention by public health officials.

All of these children face potentially irreversible cognitive damage in what Belt called “the biggest preventable childhood health issue in the United States.

“We’re probably testing a little over half of the children that should be tested,” he said.

Education is key

Many parents are unaware of the risks from lead poisoning — as well as the law regarding testing, according to health officials.

Federal budget cuts cost the state $1.3 million that was used to educate parents and pediatricians about testing requirements, Belt said. This money was passed along to local governments, which often doubled or tripled its impact with matching funds.

“What we’ve found is if we’re not out there every day educating the professionals and lay persons, and that’s parents, grandparents … (if) that information is not placed in front of them, they’re not aware,” he said.

Twenty six ZIP codes that are all or partially in Montgomery County are deemed high risk for lead poisoning, meaning all children ages 1 and 2 should be tested. These ZIP codes contained 17,626 children under age 3 in the 2010 census. But only 4,229 children under age 3 in those ZIP codes were tested that year.

In 13 Montgomery County ZIP codes, less than a quarter of children under age 3 were tested in 2010. In the 45005 ZIP code, which includes Carlisle and Franklin and extends into Butler and Warren counties, 13 percent of those children were tested.

Federal law requires lead testing at ages 1 and 2 for all children on Medicaid — regardless of where they live — and children who meet other criteria, such as regularly visiting homes built before 1950 or homes built before 1978 that are being remodeled.

Blood lead levels are measured in terms of micrograms per deciliter. If a child has a level above 10, state or local health officials conduct a lead risk assessment. Medical case managers then provide education and referrals to community resources.

If a lead risk is found in a home, the property owner is given 90 days to fix the problem by hiring a professional lead abatement contractor. Options include removing the painted area, removing the paint or properly covering it. Health officials can grant an extension for up to a year.

If the problem isn’t addressed, a “Not to Occupy” order can be issued, declaring the home unsafe.

Progress made

Health officials say these rules, put in place over the past decade, and other regulations have had a dramatic impact. In 1999, roughly 8.7 percent of children tested under age 6 had elevated blood lead levels, compared to around 1 percent today.

“We are still seeing a lot of lead poisoning, not the same frequency as we did 20 to 30 years ago, so the incidents of lead poisoning has markedly decreased over the years because of reductions and strict regulations of the possible sources of lead,” including food, gasoline, cosmetics, toys and paint, said Dr. Maria Nanagas, director of the Lead Poisoning Clinic at Dayton Children’s Hospital.

While Ohio health officials intervene at a blood level of 10, Nanagas and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stress that there is no safe level of lead in a child’s blood. The CDC identifies any child who tests at more than 5 micrograms per deciliter as having elevated blood lead level.

Mary Jean Brown, chief of the CDC’s lead poisoning prevention branch, noted that a blood level as low as 2 has been linked to lowered academic performance and behavioral issues.

In 2012, the most recent year of data available from ODH, there were 209 children in Montgomery County and 18 in Greene County diagnosed with levels between 5 and 9 micrograms per deciliter. There were 7,482 statewide.

“We want to move the whole population, the whole distribution, to the left, away from five,” Brown said.

Staff writer Ken McCall contributed to this report

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in News

Report: N. Korea conducts large-scale artillery drills on anniversary
Report: N. Korea conducts large-scale artillery drills on anniversary

North Korea conducted large-scale artillery exercises on Tuesday to coincide with the 85th anniversary of its army’s foundation, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported. >> Read more trending news  Citing an unidentified South Korean government source, Yonhap reported that there were signs North Korea's military was carrying...
Civil War cannonballs to be removed from Pittsburgh site
Civil War cannonballs to be removed from Pittsburgh site

Dozens of Civil War-era cannonballs unearthed at a Pittsburgh construction site will be removed starting Tuesday. >> Read more trending news Ordnance Holdings Inc. and Milhaus Ventures have been hired to remove the cannonballs found near the former site of the Allegheny Arsenal. The arsenal supplied the Union Army, and an explosion there...
Double execution in Arkansas first in U.S. since 2000
Double execution in Arkansas first in U.S. since 2000

Arkansas completed the first double execution in the country in 17 years Monday night, as the state executed death row inmate Marcel Williams, KARK reported. >> Read more trending news Williams was executed at 10:33 p.m. by lethal injection on the same gurney where fellow inmate Jack Jones died at 7:20 p.m. It was Arkansas’ first double...
Central Florida man credits firefighters for saving life after snake bite
Central Florida man credits firefighters for saving life after snake bite

A Central Florida man credited a Polk County Fire Rescue team for saving his life after he was bitten by a 5½-foot rattlesnake. >> Read more trending news Jerome Roddenberry was bitten April 9 by at the River Ranch hunting grounds in eastern Polk County.  When fire rescue crews arrived, they realized that Roddenberry needed advanced...
Georgia fireman feels ‘blessed’ to catch baby from burning building
Georgia fireman feels ‘blessed’ to catch baby from burning building

The first thing you notice about Robert Sutton, the 31-year-old DeKalb County firefighter of 10 years, is humility.  But it’s hard to know what to say now, after his work to save a baby from a burning Glenwood Road apartment made local news, then national, then international. “It feels like I’m a celebrity or something,&rdquo...
More Stories