INDIANAPOLIS (WANE) – The Indiana Department of Health is urging parents to have children younger than age 6 tested for lead exposure.
The state’s health department made the announcement ahead of legislation that goes into effect Sunday. IDOH is partnering with other organizations in the state to provide information about the dangers of lead to families in Allen County and around Indiana.
Most lead poisoning in Indiana stems from chipping or peeling lead paint that mixes with dust in the air. Other common sources of lead are contaminated soil, drinking water and sometimes children’s toys and jewelry.
Lead exposure can damage the brain and nervous system, causing slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems, issues with hearing and speech, impulsivity, nausea and other debilitating effects, according to IDOH. It is more toxic to unborn and younger children but can impact adults as well. Early intervention, including proper nutrition and removal of sources of lead exposure, can lower lead levels.
“There is no safe level of lead, and the sooner we can identify that a child is at risk, the earlier we can take steps to improve the health outcomes for that child,” said State Health Commissioner Kris Box. “By having parents and providers understand the importance of asking for this simple blood test, we have an opportunity to protect hundreds of Indiana children each year from the harmful effects of lead.”
The health department is launching a public awareness campaign to bring attention to the importance of this testing with a new website. IDOH is also partnering with the NAACP and Hoosier Environmental Council to conduct community outreach in Allen County through the Health Issues and Challenges Grant program, which awarded $900,000 in 2022 for community-based lead prevention and awareness programming in counties throughout the state.
The new law, House Enrolled Act 1313, requires all healthcare providers serving children to offer lead testing, which is recommended around their 1-year and 2-year checkups. Providers are also advised to offer testing to any child younger than age 6 who does not have a record of a prior blood lead test.
The universal screening law follows last July’s move to lower Indiana’s blood lead reference level to 3.5 micrograms per deciliter to align with levels established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Under these new guidelines, children with blood lead levels between 3.5 and 4.9 micrograms/deciliter and their families receive education about risks and are advised to test siblings.
Children with a confirmed level of 5 or above are enrolled in case management, and families are then encouraged to allow health department staff to do a home risk assessment, which includes discussing potentially leaded objects and surfaces and identifying support services for the child. The home assessment will also test surfaces to determine where lead hazards may exist and help the family determine how to best address the issue.