Audit Of Allegheny Co. Health Dept. Announced Regarding Blood Lead Levels

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner announced an audit of the Allegheny County Health Department regarding data on blood lead levels.

“There still is an effort to claim that we don’t have a crisis,” she said.

The announcement came an hour after the health department reiterated great strides are being made.

“Exposure to lead can be very harmful to children. In particular it impacts the neurologic system, and can impact further learning disabilities as time goes on,” Dr. Karen Hacker said.

After the problems in Flint, pediatricians have been vigilant about watching for a spike in Pittsburgh.

“I am even more hyper-aware than usual, but I have not seen an uptick in elevated lead levels,” Children’s Hospital Dr. Deborah Moss said.

The county health department is most concerned with levels above reference level of 10 micrograms per deciliter.

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“I doubt if you can get 10 just with the kind of water issues that we have here or even in Flint. It’s really hard to do that. Kids really can just only drink so much water,” Environmental Toxicologist Dr. Bernard Goldstein said.

Instead, doctors believe paint containing lead found in older homes is a bigger culprit.

“A crack in the wall which seemed minor, teeth marks on a doorjamb by a toddler, outdoor house paint that was blowing lead into a backyard of a play area of a young child, were all identified in children that I know,” Hilltop Community Healthcare Dr. Amy Nevin said.

Still, Wagner is concerned about the water.

“This should be a very fast audit, where they can show us their methodology, how they are evaluating blood lead levels and how — or if — they are really looking to whether water is a source,” she said.

Melissa Wade of the Allegheny County Health Department said the department has been audited many times and will cooperate fully.

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