Childhood lead poisoning is one of the most common pediatric health problems in the United States and is entirely preventable. Missouri has been the #1 lead producing state in the US since 1907. According to 2001 MO lead testing data, nearly 4,000 children under the age of 6 years were identified with elevated blood lead levels in this state. Adverse health effects caused by lead exposure include intellectual and behavioral deficits in children and hypertension and kidney disease in adults.
Although the percentage of children with elevated lead levels is decreasing nationwide, lead levels still remain higher in children in minority populations, children from low-income families and children who live in older homes.
The most common source of lead poisoning in children comes from the dusting and chipping of deteriorating lead based paint. Ste. Genevieve County is a rural community known for its heritage and historical homes dating back to the 1700’s. 37% of the homes in this county were built prior to 1950. Federal laws required the reduction of lead in house paint to non-harmful levels in 1978. When lead paint was available, it was usually used on more expensive homes due to its cost. While most of the homes in Ste. Genevieve County were not high-end homes, the German owners appreciated the value of the more expensive, longer lasting lead paint.
We are fortunate that we do not see very many children with elevated blood lead levels. However the health department offers lead assessments and testing to children in this county. Our target population is children between 1 and 6 years of age. Adults are usually not tested.
The health department works closely with local pediatricians, Schools, Head Start, Parents and Teachers and Day Cares to assure that all parents are aware of the availability of this service. Parents are asked to fill out an assessment and those who have one risk factor are sent information about lead poisoning and how to be tested.
Children in the WIC program are tested at 12 months and again at 24 months.