Starting in the fall of 2008, kids enrolled in Iowa schools will have to show proof they’ve had a blood test to check for lead poisoning. A state law which goes into effect this Sunday sets out the new requirement. Rita Gergeley of the Iowa Department of Public Health is working on implementation of the law.
Gergeley says it’ll take a while for the agency to develop the rules for enforcing the new blood test requirement for Iowa six-year-olds, as well as a system for providing state funds to poor Iowa parents who can’t afford the tests for their kids.
"It’s a good idea in Iowa to test all children because we have a very high prevalence of older housing stock that is what causes lead poisoning in most children," Gergeley. "The prevalence of lead poisoning in the children that have been tested in Iowa is running at about 7 percent compared to the last national average of 1.6 percent."
The new law will require proof of one test of kids age six and under, but Gergeley urges parents to consider yearly testing. "We do recommend that children get tested yearly up to the age of six because their behavior, the season of the year, whether they move — those things can all affect whether or not they’re lead poisoned," Gergeley says. "If they were tested at one year in the middle of the winter in a new house when they weren’t very mobile, they could very easily be lead poisoned at the age of two under different conditions."
Gergeley cautions parents to consider not only their own home, but other places where their child spends time — like a day care or relative’s home — where there might be lead paint that could pose a hazard. Until 1978, lead paint was commonly used in the U.S. and the federal government estimates 38 million homes still contain some lead paint.
Children, and adults, can get lead poisoning from other sources, too, like ceramics that contain lead paint and even dirt that’s been contaminated with lead. Young children under the age of six are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning because their brains are still forming.