The Iowa Department of Public Health is working on regulations for a new law that will require kids to have their blood tested for lead prior to age six and before they can enter elementary school. Rita Gergely, chief of the bureau of lead poisoning prevention, says it’s important to catch potential lead poisoning early.
Gergely says lead can cause learning disabilities with children. She says children might appear to be fine at two or three years old, but could have irreversible damage that’s discovered when they get to school. Gergely says young children often don’t show any symptoms of the lead poisoning. Gergely says a large number of kids are already tested. She says 65 to 70 percent of children are now tested before the age of six.
Gergely says the testing is already required for children who’re covered by Medicaid and other medical providers know that lead poisoning is a problem statewide, and are testing children. Gergely says the lead test simply requires taking some blood from the child and could be incorporated with other health checks.
Gergely says they hope that the lead testing is incorporated into the "well child" check-ups like it is for Medicaid, so a child would be tested at the age of one and two years initially, instead of at the age of five when they start school. Paint in older homes is the biggest source of lead poisoning for kids.
Gergely says it’s not a great of a problem in the areas where there are new homes. But, she says there are new concerns about children’s jewelry imported from China that includes lead paint and creates a new risk. Gergely says the madatory lead testing begins in the summer of 2008.