Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today announced his support for universal testing of blood-lead levels in all Pennsylvania children under the age of two to determine who is at risk for lead poisoning and where children with the highest and lowest blood-lead levels reside.
“We need to be able to identify all children who have elevated blood-lead levels in order make sure their families have access to the services they need,” Governor Wolf said. “Only with universal testing will we know the true scope of lead poisoning in Pennsylvania and be able to refer affected children for care.”
Governor Wolf called on the Department of Health to work with the General Assembly and community partners to draft legislation to require universal testing in Pennsylvania.
According to the Department of Health’s latest report on lead, only 28 percent of children aged 0-23 months were tested for lead in 2015. Testing rates varied from 12 percent to 47 percent across counties.
“Universal testing will address the gaps in childhood lead testing data, which will help us develop and implement a comprehensive lead-poisoning prevention strategy in Pennsylvania,” Dr. Rachel Levine, Acting Secretary of Health and Physician General, said. “In the meantime, we encourage parents to talk to their pediatricians about the risk factors and ask that their child be tested. It is essential to learn the facts and your individual risks to prevent lead poisoning because any level of lead detected in your child’s blood is too high.”
The Department of Health administers the Lead Hazard Control Program, which provides funding to local partners to contract with certified lead professionals to remove lead hazards. Community health nurses provide education to parents and also help monitor children whose lead levels are identified as high. The department also operates a toll-free lead information line, 1-800-440-LEAD (5323), to provide information and referrals for concerned parents or professionals.
Nationally, among states with older houses, lead-based paint is a significant source of lead exposure in young children. According to 2010 Census data, Pennsylvania ranks third in the nation for number of housing units identified as having been built before 1950, when lead was most prevalent in paint and plumbing.