Health & Science

Harris County Launches Program to Prevent Lead Poisoning in Children

In 2016, more than 1,000 children tested positive for elevated blood lead levels

Lead poisoning can happen when young children eat chipped-off pieces of lead paint.
Lead poisoning can happen when young children eat chipped-off pieces of lead paint.

Harris County Public Health (HCPH) announced Thursday its new Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP) aimed at reducing lead exposure and poisoning among children in Harris County.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 1,016 children had elevated blood lead levels in 2016.

The program will provide lead testing at two Harris County WIC locations (Antoine and Shaver), as well as case coordination for children with high levels lead of lead, to identify the lead source and ensure the poisoning discontinues.

Additionally, it also entails educational outreach to the public on the dangers and prevention of lead poisoning and information to medical providers on recommendations and requirements for lead testing.

Database

It is also creating a database to track, evaluate and monitor county cases. Most families affected by lead poisoning are low-income.

“Many families aren’t aware of the dangers of lead poisoning. They don’t know this can affect their child’s cognitive development,” said Dr. Umair A. Shah, executive director for Harris County Public Health. “That’s why this program is so important. We want to bring more awareness to the issue in Harris County,” he said.

Lead poisoning in children can cause brain development delays, speech and language problems, damage to the nervous system and kidneys, and in extremely high cases, death.

Lead paint

Oftentimes, lead poisoning doesn’t show symptoms and can happen when young children eat chipped-off pieces of lead paint. Lead paint was banned in 1978, but children living in homes built before then could be at risk. Lead is also found in products from overseas like jewelry, toys, pottery, spices and cosmetics.

HCPH recommends children age 6 or younger be tested for lead by a medical provider at least once. Children who are receiving benefits from the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) can be tested at HCPH’s Antoine and Shaver WIC clinics.

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