Health officials say Iowa has a serious problem with lead poisoning among children. Rita Gergely of the Iowa Department of Public Health says nearly nine-and-a-half percent of Iowa children who’ve been tested suffer from lead poisoning. That’s more than three times the national average. Gergely says studies show children who have been poisoned by lead lag behind their classmates in school; they’re less likely to complete high school or go to college. Children with lead poisoning can be treated, but the damage done does not go away, according to Gergely. Cerro Gordo, Hancock and Worth Counties have joined to form them own task force on lead poisoning. Brian Hanft, Cerro Gordo County’s environmental services manager, says they’re trying to convince the owners of homes built before 1960 to get their property and their children tested. “It’s a terrible disease to get and it’s completely preventable,” Hanft says. Hanft has a one-year-old and a three-year-old, but he says never has the family doctor asked if they live in a home that might have lead paint. He hopes to convince area health care providers to ask about the possibility a family lives in a home with lead paint. He concedes homeowners in the three counties are reluctant to have their properties tested. He says people assume the home will be “black-balled” and they won’t be able to sell it if a test confirms there’s lead paint in the home. Hanft says legislators could help by offering a small tax credit to homeowners who maintain a “lead safe” designation for their property. Hanft and Gergely spoke yesterday (Wednesday) before the House and Senate Human Resources Committees.
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