PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan has caused major concerns about lead levels across the country, and more than a dozen cities, including Pittsburgh, have children with higher levels of lead exposure than Flint.
Health officials stress that high level continues to come from lead based paints and not water.
The data, first reported on Vox.com, shows there are at least 18-cities in Pennsylvania with higher lead level exposures than Flint.
According to the article, nearly ten percent of the more than 140,000 children tested had levels of five or micrograms per deciliter of lead in the blood.
That level is the threshold the United States government uses to identify children with elevated blood lead levels.
The 2014 Department of Health data shows that more than eight-percent of children tested in Pittsburgh had high lead levels.
In Flint, data shows just over three-percent of children had similarly high levels.
Other cities on the list included Erie, State College, and Harrisburg.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the primary source of childhood lead poisoning in Pennsylvania continues to be exposure to aging, deteriorating lead-based paint (chips and dust), and not drinking water.
“The Department of Health is very concerned about elevated lead levels in children wherever they may occur. Our community health nurses work closely with health care providers and families every day to provide education about lead exposure and facilitate home inspections if needed to identify the source of the exposure,” said Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy.
The graph below shows the cities in Pennsylvania where the lead exposure rate is high.
According to the data, Allentown and Altoona had more than double the state exposure rate of 9.37 percent, and the group of 20 cities had a collective rate of 11.49 percent, also higher than the state rate.
The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority also remind residents that if you are concerned about lead in your water you can do the following:
Call their lab for a free test kit at (412)-782-7554.
In the morning, run your cold water tap. When it becomes cooler to the touch, that means the water that sat overnight has been flushed out along with anything that may have leached into it.
The Wolf Administration takes the issue of lead exposure very seriously and state agencies will continue to work together on their coordinated response to address lead exposure in communities across the commonwealth.
The age of Pennsylvania’s housing stock contributes to this problem.
While lead was banned from paint in 1978, many older dwellings still contain layers of pre-1978 paint.
“In Allegheny County, probably half the housing stock was built before 1950, and that’s when lead was especially prevalent in houses,” said David Namey, with the Housing & Community Environment Program.
According to 2010 Census data, Pennsylvania ranks third in the nation for having the most housing units identified as having been built before 1950 (when lead was more prevalent) and fourth in the nation for housing units identified as having been built before 1978, according to a 2014 Department of Health report.