17% decline in children with toxic lead levels

135 children listed last year by city Health Department

maryland

February 01, 2006|By NICOLE FULLER | NICOLE FULLER,SUN REPORTER

The number of children in Baltimore with toxic levels of lead in their blood dropped 17 percent from 2004 to 2005, the city Health Department announced yesterday.

Last year, 135 children were identified as having 15 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, compared with 162 children who had the same levels in 2004. While there is no known safe level of lead exposure for children, exposure to large doses can cause death and brain problems. Chronic, low-level lead exposure can cause learning disabilities and a decreased IQ.

The health department has also issued new regulations lowering the blood level threshold at which families with children exposed to lead can receive assistance from the city - from 15 to 10 micrograms per deciliter.

"Every tragic case of childhood lead poisoning in Baltimore is preventable," city Health Commissioner Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein said in a statement. "We need to remain aggressive in our approach and keep this momentum going."

Meanwhile, rental property owners could face a fine of $250 per day starting Feb. 24 for failing to perform at least one lead hazard risk reduction treatment on homes built before 1950.

The law makes intervention mandatory when a child resident is shown to have a blood lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter. These property owners must also register their units annually with the Maryland Department of the Environment, perform risk reduction maintenance and keep tenants abreast of the lead status.

Approximately 135,000 housing units in the state were constructed before 1950. About 30,000 of those units are certified lead-free.

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