Clark County Combined Health District: Lead prevention initiative aims to reduce exposure to children

The Clark County Combined Health District. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

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The Clark County Combined Health District. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

The Clark County Combined Health District has launched a public awareness campaign as part of an effort to reduce lead exposure to children in that area.

Expanded lead safety promotions, increased screenings for kids and additional partnerships with healthcare providers are among the strategies outlined in CCCHD’s “Lead Safe” initiative to decrease the prevalence of elevated blood lead levels in local children by 2023, the health district said in a press release.

Ohio was found in a 2021 study to outpace the nation in terms of elevated blood lead levels. In Ohio, the elevated BLL in 5% of children is more than twice the national rate of 1.9%, according to JAMA Pediatrics, a medical journal of the American Medical Association. Ohio ranks second in the nation in terms of states with the highest rates of children with elevated blood levels, only trailing behind Nebraska, which reported a rate of 6%, the study found.

Currently, 9.34% of Clark County children have elevated blood lead levels, according to the health district, and health leaders are working to reduce that number to 5.21% prior to June 30, 2023.


Prolonged exposure to lead can lead to numerous serious health problems, including damage to the brain and nervous system; slowed growth and development; behavioral, learning, speech and hearing problems; impaired cognitive development; and lowered attention spans.

There is no safe level of exposure to the metal, experts say. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement, according to, an American Academy of Pediatrics website.

Cognitive delays can last a lifetime, and are not reversible.

The health district said that part of this lead prevention project focuses on providing updated information to Clark County health care providers who serve as primary providers for children under 6 years of age, specifically with regards to lead testing children in high-risk areas or who may be on Medicaid.

Health district staff will also conduct home visits to complete a lead visual assessment while in the home using an Environmental Visual Assessment tool from the Ohio Department of Health, according to the release.

The most common source of lead exposure in young children is lead dust, the health district said.

Young children tend to put their hands or other objects into their mouths and lead dust gets ingested when they place their lead-contaminated hands or other objects in their mouths.

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The risk for lead exposure is not the same for all children, and there are significant disparities in health outcomes across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Higher blood lead levels are more prevalent among children from racial and ethnic minority groups as well as children from low-income households. Disadvantaged children are also more likely to live in housing built before lead-based paint was banned in 1978, greatly increasing the likelihood of exposure, according to the health district.

Children 6 years old and younger are at a higher risk of lead exposure, because their bodies are rapidly developing and more susceptible to lead absorption. For this reason, the health district said that blood testing of children under the age of 6 is important.

According to the Ohio Department of Medicaid, all children enrolled in Medicaid are required to receive blood lead screening tests at 12 and 24 months of age, but less than 60% of Medicaid children have had blood tests reported to the state’s registry in recent years.

This leaves 40% of low-income children, already disadvantaged, at risk for undiagnosed and untreated lead poisoning.

Simple steps to make your home more lead-safe

The most important step that parents, pediatricians and others can take is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs. Here are some simple steps to reduce lead exposure in the home:

  • Talk to your local health department about testing paint and dust in your home for lead if you live in a house built before 1978.
  • Common home renovation activities such as sanding, cutting and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips by disturbing lead-based paint. These can be harmful to adults and children.
  • Renovation activities should be performed by certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers to follow lead-safe work practices.
  • If you see paint chips or dust in windowsills or on floors because of peeling paint, clean these areas regularly with a wet mop.
  • Wipe your feet on mats before entering the home, especially if you work in occupations where lead is used. Removing your shoes when entering the home is a good practice to control lead.
  • Remove recalled toys and toy jewelry from children. Stay up-to-date on current recalls by visiting the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website at


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