Lead poisoning rates drop

Staff Writer
Chillicothe Times-Bulletin

CHICAGO –Through sustained state prevention efforts and public awareness campaigns, the Illinois Department of Public Health is reporting a 93 percent decrease in the rates of children with lead poisoning since 1997.

The announcement comes during National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week and Governor Pat Quinn proclaiming October 21-27, 2012 as Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Week in Illinois.

“Although childhood lead poisoning rates in Illinois remain high, we are extremely pleased that the coordinated, strategic efforts of our Illinois Lead Program have worked toward such a dramatic decline in the number of lead poisoned children statewide,” said IDPH Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck.

The numbers of Illinois children younger than six-years-old with elevated levels of lead in their blood was 45,809 in 1997. In 2011, that number dropped to 3,164.

Lead poisoning is one of the most preventable environmental health problems in the United States, affecting approximately 250,000 children between the ages of 1 and 5.

There is no safe level of lead in the body, and the only way to determine whether a child is lead poisoned is to perform a blood test.

Lead poisoning can affect nearly every system in the body, causing learning disabilities, shortened attention spans and, in extreme cases, seizures, coma and death.

The major source of lead exposure among Illinois children continues to be lead-contaminated dust, and lead-based paint, which was banned in 1978.

Illinois passed the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act in 1973, setting mandatory screening and reporting requirements. The act was amended in 2006, expanding lead poisoning prevention efforts in Illinois.

The Illinois Lead Program is responsible for screening and identifying children with elevated blood lead levels, and facilitating appropriate medical follow-up to minimize the adverse effects of lead poisoning.

The program also proactively conducts community-based lead poison awareness and education programs statewide and inspects dwellings for elevated lead levels.