A new report from the Iowa Department of Public Health shows the number of lead poisoning cases in children under the age of six is increasing. The report shows 2,700, or 7%, of children in Iowa born in 2003 have lead poisoning. That’s four times the national average.
Rita Gergely heads the Iowa Department of Public Health’s efforts to combat lead poisoning. She says Iowa is a “high risk state” as 40% of the homes in the state were built before 1950, compared with 22% nationwide. Gergely says the number of confirmed childhood cases in Iowa is increasing, in part, because of a two year old law that requires children to be tested before entering kindergarten.
“Most lead poisoned children do not have any symptoms until the lead poisoning is very severe so the only way to identify it when it is still at a mild to moderate level is to do a blood lead test,” Gergely said. She says children who live in older homes should get tested more often.
“Most children are poisoned by coming into contact with deteriorated paint or with paint that has been disturbed by remodeling,” Gergely said. “They get paint chips and dust on their toys and on their hands and then they put their hands and their toys in their mouth and that’s how they get lead poisoned.”
Symptoms of lead poisoning include brain and nervous system damage and can lead to learning disabilities and even death. Find out more information on the Department of Public Health’s website here.