DeLauro: Let’s Get The Lead Out

Jon Greenberg PhotoConnecticut U.S. Rep Rosa DeLauro is introducing a bill that could help defend New Haven children from the threat of lead poisoning.

DeLauro’s bill, the SMART Child Act, would commit $150 million to fund lead poisoning prevention, detection and treatment nationwide. The acronym SMART stands for “screen, manage, address and remove toxins for children.” Amid refrigerators that kept interrupting speakers with hums, she and others discussed the bill Monday morning at a press conference in a medical storage room at New Haven Health Department’s Meadow Street offices. She was joined by doctors from the New Haven and Connecticut health departments and from Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Although cases of lead poisoning have dropped substantially in New Haven since the 1990s, over 300 children in the city are diagnosed annually with blood lead levels past 5 micrograms per deciliter, according to Carl Baum, director of the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital Lead Treatment Center, who spoke at the Monday conference. Many doctors consider 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood the threshold for poisoning.

DeLauro said over four million children across the nation are being exposed regularly to high levels of lead.

“Lead poisoning is a crisis in this country,” DeLauro said. “I do not say that lightly.”

Money from the bill would pay for educating families and communities on ways to prevent children from being exposed to lead, for managing cases for children who have been diagnosed with lead poisoning, and for blood tests and other screening measures, according to DeLauro. DeLauro said the only way to definitively detect lead poisoning is via blood testing.

New Haven’s aging housing stock is the city’s largest lead threat, according to city Health Director Byron Kennedy, who spoke at the conference. Over 80 percent of homes in New Haven were built before 1978, when lead was still commonly used in pipes and paint. Children in the Elm City who spend time in older homes and other older buildings are at risk of ingesting lead paint chips and dust, according to Kennedy.

Unlike in some other cities across the country, lead contaminated tap water is not as much of a threat in New Haven, according to Kennedy.

Connecticut law states that children between 9 months and 36 months old must be tested for lead once a year. Baum said pediatricians in New Haven do a good job of screening for lead poisoning around the 12 month mark, but not as good a job of running tests after that point. Baum said children between the ages of 12 months and 24 months are especially at risk of exposure to lead, because children’s fine motor skills develop greatly during that time, allowing them to more easily ingest paint chips and dust. He urged New Haven pediatricians to run tests on children when they reach 24 months.

DeLauro cited recent cuts in federal funding for lead poisoning prevention as an impetus for creating the bill. She explained that in 2005 the federal government created a program to combat lead poisoning, but that funding for that program dropped from $35 million to $2 million from 2011 to 2012. The program was only allotted $17 million in the 2017 federal budget. That is not nearly enough money to prevent and treat lead poisoning effectively nationwide, according to DeLauro.

DeLauro added that even the $150 million in additional funds promised by the bill is not enough to appropriately combat the “crisis” of lead poisoning nationwide, but that it represents an improvement from the current situation.

Lead poisoning causes learning, hearing and behavioral problems and can harm brain, bone and muscle development. DeLauro stressed the importance of preventing poisoning, because the effects of lead poisoning can not be reversed.

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posted by: Christopher Schaefer on July 17, 2017  9:16pm

As of June 30 DeLauro’s perpetual re-election campaign had raised about $340,000:
So I find it remarkable that DeLauro needs to continually make use of free campaign spots (aka “press conferences”) to announce yet another one of her legislative proposals that will never make it to the House floor for a vote—regardless of which party holds the majority.
The acronym SMART stands for Screen-Manage-Address-Remove-Toxins. 
You also could accomplish such by simply voting DeLauro out of office.
She is the poster child for our need for Congressional term limits.

posted by: CTLifer on July 18, 2017  1:41am

Poor Paul.
NH Pediatricians actually almost always test for lead at the 12 and 24 month marks.  It is after that it can be next to impossible to get them to test. You can see the negative impact of high lead levels in three year olds, but getting their docs to test can be a nightmare.  3 to 5 year olds is where the effort needs to be focused.

posted by: Frank Columbo on July 19, 2017  2:48am

Sorry Rosa, we vote for you but lead paint poisoning is greatly exaggerated. There is NO LEAD PAINT POISONING CRISIS PERIOD!!!. My wife worked with a woman who once managed New Haven’s lead program on the City Hall side. This employee in the housing and neighborhood office processed loans for lead abatement. She had to deal with property owners who were constantly being vilified by certain Environmental health department inspectors. 

One property owner was equally perplexed and outraged by being informed that his tenants children tested “Positive” for EBL’s elevated blood lead levels stating hisnchildren were raised in that home and they both graduated from college! He was never cited for any housing code violations, no peeling paint ect. 

There was a Yuppie couple renovating an historic home in Fair Haven. They were terrified that they would be fined for their own child testing positive, but here’s the kicker-they brought their child back for retesting, not implementing any lead paint prevention suggestions and their child’s blood levels were normal! 

Ask any medical professional about this. The EBL’s fluctuate.  Diet is primary in how much lead exposure results in absorption.  New Haven has been the recipient of Fed Lead funds many times. When the program became so successful the numbers of reported lead poisoning cases dropped. Subsequently New Haven failed to be awarded new grant funds so the health department lowered the minimum to 5 micrograms per deciliter resulting in an uptick in children testing positive, providing a better chance to secure the next round of grant funding.  Encouraging physicians to continue testing until age 3 should be based upon what symptoms are presenting.

There was no lead testing among the Baby Boomer generation so how is it that we all became what matters most-Taxpayers!

We can think of many other toxins in more harmful than lead paint: Neglect, diet devoid of nutritional value, abusive parenting ect and bullets.