Area officials keep chipping away at a hazardous paint problem plaguing local homes built decades ago. Workers recently eliminated lead and lead-based paints in more than 200 homes.
Erie County received, in total, $6.1 million since 2008 to remove the poisonous element in homes.
“We have been working with our lead-hazard grants and we have made some awesome strides,” said Scott Thom, the county’s health department construction administrator.
But health officials still want to inform people about the dangers lead poses and eliminate the deadly substance from homes, said Christine Stelzer, the department’s Healthy Homes supervisor.
Stelzer discussed why lead is poisonous, the effects it has on children and what county residents can do to eliminate the toxin from their homes.
Q: Why are so many Erie County homes at risk of lead poisoning?
CS: Erie County has one of the oldest housing stocks with many homes more than 100 years old. Lead was added to paint to make it more durable, but in 1978 the government banned it from household use because of the health effects.
Q: Children are the most at-risk when exposed to lead paint in terms of long-term effects.
What are some of those effects?
CS: Behavior problems, learning problems, hearing damage, brain damage and possibly even death. There have been studies done to show children who have lead poisoning have a higher rate of dropping out of school and a higher likelihood of being involved in crime.
Q: How can someone become infected with lead?
CS: It can be inhaled or ingested. I know a lot of people think the common image of kids eating paint chips, but actually the friction from old windows being opened and closed creates dust. If the child has been playing there, the hand-to-mouth activity of such as sucking on your thumb or putting a toy in your mouth. Also, if mom or dad is dry sanding a window, a child can inhale the dust. Even soil, if kids are crawling around in it.
Q: What can parents do to become proactive and determine if their child has lead poisoning?
CS: A child’s physician or pediatrician should be offering the test. It’s state law for Medicaid children to have their blood lead tested at ages 1 and 2, but not all pediatricians do it.
Q: Other than doctor offices, where else can children get tested for lead levels?
CS: We give tests at the health department, our outreach clinics and our women, infants and children clinics. A full schedule of clinics can be found at eriecohealthohio.org.
Q: Why should people test their children for lead?
CS: The health risks of lead include developmental delays for a children. The sooner you catch it, the sooner the problem can be fixed.