LAWRENCEVILLE, Pa. (AP/KDKA) — Pennsylvania officials are hoping to lower the risk of lead poisoning through mandated blood testing for children and other measures.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is backing legislation to require testing that meets federal guidelines and is rolling out other strategies to address the problem.
WATCH: Gov. Tom Wolf Holds News Conference —
The administration is working on ways for regional response teams to care for children with dangerous amounts of lead in their system.
“Pennsylvania has the sixth-highest percentage rate for children suffering from lead poisoning and this is only the number who have been formally diagnosed,” Gov. Wolf said in a press release. “This is not good for the future of Pennsylvania, so today I am calling for the legislature to pass universal lead testing this fall.”
Lead exposure can come from households, schools, childcare centers and facilities that still have lead pipe water lines and lead paint.
Seventy percent of structures in Pennsylvania were built before 1978, the year lead paint was banned from being sold.
There are also proposals to train more people in remediating lead and to provide more resources online about lead poisoning, testing and remediation.
Officials say about three in 10 children in the state have been tested for lead exposure, and just under 5 percent of them had elevated lead levels.
Gov. Wolf said he will seek funding to make his plans happen.
“Lead poisoning is preventable. Unfortunately, lead goes undetected within our homes and schools and robs children of their true potential,” said Kevin Osterhoudt, medical director of the Poison Control Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, in a release. “Pennsylvania children are all too frequent victims of lead’s silent poisoning. We must acknowledge that our older housing stock and water delivery systems place our children at risk of lead exposure and protect them through education, advocacy, policy, investment and action.”
Some of that funding has already made an impact in Allegheny County.
“We did inititate mandatory testing, and it has been very successful,” County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said. “I think we are the only county that has mandatory testing for kids at 9 months to 12 months and then onto 24 months. We have seen the levels come down.”
Mayor Bill Peduto said by the end of 2024, there will be no water lead lines in Pittsburgh.
“As we stand here today, we have 4,500 homes that no longer have lead lines in the city of Pittsburgh,” Peduto said. “By the end of 2021, we will have 8,000 homes that no longer have lead lines in the city of Pittsburgh.”
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