FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (from WI DHS)
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is highlighting the importance of lead poisoning prevention by visiting home lead abatement projects around the state and for the first time this year will also visit child care centers that are testing their water for lead. These visits are designed to raise awareness of childhood lead poisoning and the resources available to help communities eliminate common sources of lead exposure for children.
“What’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state, and doing what’s best for our kids means making sure kids in every community can grow up in a safe and clean environment free from harmful contaminants like lead,” said Gov. Evers. “Over the last three years, we’ve worked hard to address child lead poisoning in Wisconsin, including proposing to invest $40 million to replace lead service lines across the state, but we have to keep working together to protect our kids and ensure folks know about the resources we have available to help.”
One of the major sources of lead poisoning in children is lead-based paint, found mostly in homes built prior to 1978. There are an estimated 350,000 homes in Wisconsin with lead-based paint hazards. The Lead-Safe Homes Program helps qualified homeowners and tenants make repairs to remove all the lead hazards in rental and owner-occupied homes.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates ingestion of lead in drinking water could be as high as 20% or more of a person’s total lead exposure. Some old plumbing materials and plumbing fixtures like faucets and water fountains may contain lead. Like the Lead-Safe Homes Program, the Lead-in-Water Testing and Remediation Initiative is working with local partners to eliminate lead hazards in child care facilities.
Governor Tony Evers has prioritized the prevention of childhood lead poisoning(link is external) and DHS received just over $8 million in the current state budget to expand the Lead-Safe Homes Program. State programs and resources are available to support Wisconsin communities that want to remove lead hazards before they poison a child.
“Every child deserves a healthy start in life,” said DHS Lead Policy Advisor Brian Weaver. “When homeowners and landlords work with our Lead-Safe Homes Program or child care providers participate in the Lead-in-Water Testing and Remediation Initiative, they help protect the health of children now and for future generations.”
Lead is a neurotoxin that impacts a child’s brain and can cause life-long physical and behavioral health issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)(link is external), even low levels of lead in a child’s blood can affect intelligence, the ability to pay attention, and academic achievement.
Children who are lead poisoned typically do not look or act sick. Therefore, the only way to know if a child is lead poisoned is to have a blood lead test. Parents should talk with their child’s health care provider about the risk of lead exposure, and to determine if a blood lead test is needed. Children living in Milwaukee and Racine should have a blood lead test three times before age 3. Families living outside of Milwaukee and Racine should have their children under 3 tested if they live in or regularly visit a house built before 1978; have a sibling or playmate with lead poisoning; or are enrolled in Medicaid or WIC.
In 2020, there were 23% fewer blood lead tests done overall, and 30% fewer blood lead tests among all Medicaid-enrolled children compared to 2019.
“The COVID-19 pandemic made a bad situation worse. The number of children tested for lead has fallen since 2010, especially among families enrolled in BadgerCare Plus or Medicaid, which accounts for 85% of our lead poisoning cases of children under the age of 6,” Weaver said. ”Blood lead testing is critical to identify a lead-poisoned child early so they can receive appropriate care and to avoid ongoing exposure.”
Governor Evers has prioritized the prevention of childhood lead poisoning and state programs are available to support Wisconsin communities that want to remove lead hazards before they poison a child.
In the coming months, Weaver and DHS representatives will be visiting homes enrolled in the Lead-Safe Homes Program and the day care providers who participated in the Lead-in-Water Testing and Remediation Initiative. These homes, apartment buildings, and child care facilities fixed lead hazards that were potential sources of exposure. Local stakeholders, elected officials, and the media are invited to see these projects in person.
Tours will take place throughout the state, starting in August, and will run through October:
- Wisconsin Rapids – August 17, 2022, 10-11:00 a.m.
- West Allis – September 19, 2022, 10-11:00 a.m.
- Beloit – early to mid-October, 10-11:00 a.m.
- Sheboygan – Week of October 25, 2022, 10-11:00 a.m.
More information about the Lead-Safe Homes Program can be found on the DHS website and on the Lead-in-Water Testing and Remediation Initiative by contacting Madelyn Reinagel at Madelyn.Reingal@dhs.wisconsin.gov.