ALLEGHENY COUNTY (KDKA) — High levels of lead in the blood can lead to abnormal brain development and behavioral problems in children, but while the Allegheny County Health Department figures show that our kids have lead levels higher than the national average, Controller Chelsa Wagner claims the numbers are actually much worse.

“Kids in Allegheny County and in Pittsburgh have blood lead levels about three times the national average and that’s a crisis,” she said. “That’s a public health crisis that we need to deal with.”

The methodologies are in dispute, but where the health department says that more than 3 percent of children in the county, and more than 5 percent in the city, have elevated levels of lead, Wagner says a more accurate analysis of the data shows that more than 7 percent of the kids the county and 8 percent of those in the city have high lead blood levels.

“Those levels in Allegheny County, and specifically in Pittsburgh, are very high and unacceptably high,” Wagner said.

The health department declined comment but in a written response director Karen Hacker dismissed the audit, saying it is “fraught with inaccuracies” and “conducted by non-public health professionals.”

“This is a misleading and biased and potentially dangerous use of public health information that creates fear and confusion,” Allegheny Co. Health Department director Dr. Karen Hacker said.

But the source of the lead contamination is also in dispute. While Wagner has repeatedly criticized the health department for not doing enough to address the lead in the water, Hacker has long maintained that the problem is primarily lead paint.

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