Reducing Childhood Lead Poisoning in Spokane
Thanks to the City of Spokane's Lead Safe Spokane program, we've resumed our blood lead screening efforts!
- Total number of kids screened: 941
- Number of kids with elevated blood lead levels*: 102
- Number of kids with blood lead poisoning**: 2
- Percentage of kids with elevated blood lead levels: 11%
Click here for a map of Spokane with blood lead level test results from The Lands Council's screening events.
"Kids Run Better Unleaded," a documentary produced by Community-Minded Television about The Lands Council's work with community partners to reduce childhood lead poisoning. Watch the full documentary now!
Click here for information about all past blood lead screenings.
Why should we be concerned about lead? Lead is a known toxin with no beneficial function in humans or animals. There is no safe level of lead in the body. Childhood lead poisoning, which still affects thousands of children under age six in the U.S. each year, can lead to reduced IQs, behavior problems, learning and developmental disabilities, brain damage, anemia, and in some extreme cases, death. Symptoms of lead poisoning can include irritability, headaches, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, reduced appetite, weight loss…or no symptoms at all. Kids in Spokane get lead poisoning by inhaling, eating, or drinking lead that can come from contaminated beaches on the Spokane River, contaminated industrial sites (such as the BNSF Lead Site in Hillyard), cracking, chipping, or peeling lead-based paint in the home, toys, residual deposits from past use of leaded gasoline and lead arsenate pesticides, and lead found in drinking water pipes. You can help protect your children from lead poisoning by washing their hands frequently, making sure they have a diet rich in calcium and iron, and keeping your home clean and dust-free.
Who is most at risk? While the numbers of lead-poisoned children have declined in recent years, the burden of lead poisoning continues to fall disproportionately on low-income families living in older, poorly-maintained housing. In 2005, the Washington State Study of Lead Hazards in Housing classified much of Spokane as "Priority 1," a ranking which represents neighborhoods having the highest concentration of risk factors for childhood lead poisoning, such as older homes and low to moderate median household incomes. In that same year, a two-year-old child living in a rental property in Spokane's West Central neighborhood was lead poisoned by consuming lead-tainted soil. The soil was likely contaminated by lead paint chips. This child, whose family was previously unaware of lead hazards or the availability of local resources, was hospitalized for many days with a blood lead level of 51 µg/dL.
What was done by The Lands Council? In an effort to protect the health of those most affected by exposure to this dangerous environmental toxin, The Lands Council's Environmental Health program, with a 2-year Targeted Lead Grant from the EPA (2007-2009), educated families in Spokane about the health effects, exposure pathways, and prevention of childhood lead poisoning and offered free, voluntary on-the-spot blood-lead testing of children ages 0-6. In collaboration with partners such as the City of Spokane, SNAP, Spokane County Head Start/Early Head Start, WA Department of Health, and the WSU College of Nursing, we built awareness of childhood lead poisoning and encouraged Spokane families to get their kids and homes tested for lead. We educated 1,950 inner-city Spokane families on the health effects, exposure factors, symptoms, and prevention of childhood lead poisoning, and distributed nearly 4,350 informational packets. EPA's Targeted Lead Grant Program-and projects such as ours that are supported by these grant funds-play a major role in meeting the federal goal of eliminating childhood lead poisoning as a major public health concern.
How does it work? First, we identified Spokane neighborhoods thought to be "high-risk" for childhood lead poisoning by compiling data on age of housing stock, median household income, families in poverty, and presence of kids 6 and under into GIS software and produced detailed, color-coded maps (click here for neighborhood maps). We then went door-to-door in these neighborhoods-passing along information about childhood lead poisoning to families and helping them access free home lead testing programs through SNAP and the City of Spokane-and advertised upcoming blood lead screening events. At these events, our nurse took a "finger stick" blood sample, mixed it with a reagent solution, and fed it on a slide into a portable machine called LeadCare II. The entire process took approximately 5-10 minutes per child. Kids walked away with a lollipop, sticker, and cool band-aid, and parents received written results of their child's blood lead level, along with a home lead test kit.
Getting our kids and homes tested for lead is one of the best steps we can take towards prevention! For information on free home lead testing, contact Lead Safe Spokane at 509.625.6325 and SNAP at 509.744-3370 Ext. 244. For more information on blood lead testing for kids, please contact your pediatrician. If you live outside of Spokane please check with your municipality to find local resources.
*The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) considers a blood lead level to be elevated if it measures over 0 µg/dL.
**The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently lowered the recommended blood lead level limit in children from 10 µg/dL to 5 µg/dL.
More Information about Lead Poisoning:
Contact: Kat Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org, 509-209-2403
- Living with lead: written by Adrian Rogers - The Spokesman Review, September 11, 2012