Children in five areas to need tests for lead

State to require screening before school enrollment

July 07, 2004|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN STAFF

Parents in five Carroll County communities must have their young children tested for lead exposure before enrolling them in school this fall, state officials announced.

Children who live or have ever lived in Upperco, Keymar, New Windsor, Union Bridge and Taneytown must undergo a blood test to determine whether they have been exposed to lead.

The state requirement affects only children entering pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade. Children who test positive for lead exposure are allowed to enroll in school, but state officials are asking physicians to encourage parents to seek medical treatment for their children.

"We would never exclude a child based on lead levels," said Marge Hoffmaster, supervisor of health services for Carroll County schools. "Because of the learning difficulties and other health consequences of lead poisoning, the goal is to make sure that children who are at risk are identified so that further exposure can be limited, as well as the medical consequences from it," she said.

School officials are required to notify the county Health Department if a parent enrolls a child who has not been tested for lead exposure, Hoffmaster said.

After schools have identified students who haven't been tested, county health officials will send a letter to the parents alerting them to the state law requiring the screening, said Penny Bramlett, program manager for maternal and child health.

The blood test can be performed during a routine physical exam with the child's doctor, officials said.

Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and at very high levels, it can lead to seizures, coma and death, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only one Carroll community, Taneytown, was affected last year when the state began requiring the lead exposure test.

But using information from the 2000 Census that indicated areas where more than 27 percent of the houses were built before 1950, state health officials designated the four additional areas in the county, said Maureen Edwards, medical director of the Center for Maternal and Child Health with the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

All children in these areas are required to be tested because even if they don't live in an older home, they might play in an area that has lead contamination, Edwards said.

Aging buildings are a major source of lead exposure among children because of lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust, according to the CDC.

"One of the biggest factors that puts children at risk is the age of housing," Edwards said.

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