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Lead Poisoning Investigation and Prevention

The Health Department plays a unique role in the community in preventing childhood lead poisoning, and in responding to it when it does happen. The Health Department provides care, promotes prevention and serves as a regulatory agency. So, Health Department staff respond to childhood lead poisoning on several levels.

Every year, many children in Kentucky are affected by lead poisoning. Lead is a harmful element that is toxic to the human body even in tiny amounts. Learning more about lead and its health effects can help parents and property owners prevent lead poisoning
A nurse tests a child for lead poisoning
Screening: The Health Department’s county health centers provide free or low-cost lead screening for children 6 and under. A Health Department nurse works to manage the cases of any children found to have high blood lead levels.

Investigation: Staff from the Health Department conducts investigations for possible causes when a child is found to have high blood lead levels.

Education and outreach: Education and outreach activities provide information through Web pages, pamphlets, brochures, health fairs and collaboration with community groups and state and federal agencies.

For more information on lead, you can read a list of frequently asked questions, a list of lead poisoning do's and don'ts, or you can call the Health Department at 859.341.4151.

Screening
Every child should be tested for lead poisoning at ages 9 to 12 months and again at age 24 months. Children with a higher risk should be tested more frequently. The lead screening consists of a finger stick.
 
Ask the following questions to determine if your child is at risk for lead poisoning:

Investigation

If a child has an elevated level of lead, the response depends on the amount of lead in the child's blood.

Lead level Home visit Follow-up testing
5 and 9.9 µg/dl  (micrograms per deciliter) Environmental inspector can perform a voluntary home visit and visual inspection to provide education and to identify potential problems with paint in poor condition A second blood draw is needed within 12 weeks
10 and 14.9 µg/dl (micrograms per deciliter) Home visit by a registered nurse along with an environmental inspector to provide a voluntary visual inspection and education on ways to reduce the risks of lead exposure, including potential sources of lead poisoning, signs and symptoms, effects on the body, nutrition, proper cleaning methods and importance of good hand washing A second blood draw is needed within 12 weeks
Above 15 µg/dl (micrograms per deciliter) Environmentalists from the Health Department are required to conduct an investigation into the causes of the lead poisoning. If not already performed, a registered nurse will visit to provide education on ways to reduce the risks of lead exposure, including potential sources of lead poisoning, signs and symptoms, effects on the body, nutrition, proper cleaning methods and importance of good hand washing A second blood draw is needed within one week

What to expect on home visits for children with blood lead levels above 15 µg/dl (micrograms per deciliter):

A house with lead paint

Depending on the child’s blood lead levels and if lead hazards are found, the homeowner is recommended or required to have a certified contractor assess the hazards, develop a plan, have this plan reviewed by the Kentucky Department for Public Health and properly remove any lead hazards. Properly maintained buildings prevent lead poisoning of children and other residents.

Important: Improperly performed abatement work can cause further spreading of lead-contamination and can actually cause more poisoning of children and adults. For this reason all lead abatement work is regulated by the state of Kentucky, and must be done under a permit and inspected. 

Education and outreach
Because so many homes contain lead paint or other hazards, education of parents and others about lead is extremely important. Children under age 6 are especially at risk for lead poisoning because of their nature: they are curious, low to the ground and place things into their mouths. They can get lead into their blood by breathing contaminated dust and by putting lead contaminated paint chips, dust or soil into their mouths.
 
Certain activities and hobbies can cause lead poisoning. Working around, sanding or stripping lead paint, working with lead fishing tackle, lead bullets, batteries, and other occupations or hobbies where lead is present. Although lead cannot be absorbed through the skin, any of these activities can generate lead contaminated dust, and this lead-contaminated dust can poison occupants of the house, especially children. It only takes a small amount of lead contaminated dust to generate dangerously high levels of lead. Properly maintained buildings prevent lead poisoning of children and other residents.
 
More information
Call the Health Department at 859.341.4151.
Kentucky Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
Kentucky Environmental Lead Program
CDC Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
EPA: Lead in Paint, Dust and Soil