The kids in Shoshone County won’t be the only ones this summer earning $20 to get their skin pricked in the name of research.
The Panhandle Health District is inviting parents in Kootenai and Boundary counties to bring their children in to test their blood for lead, too.
The health district is testing only children between ages 6 months and 6 years who live in homes built before 1950.
It’s part of the first statewide survey of blood lead levels associated with lead-based paint.
The children in Kellogg, Pinehurst and Smelterville have had their blood tested for years, but there the health district is looking for evidence of lead poisoning from smelter fallout in the ‘70s. Those children are not included in the latest statewide survey.
The health department is offering the $20 as incentive to lure in the 100 children they need in each district for a comprehensive survey.
Lead-based paint was banned for residential use in 1978. The paint industry starting phasing out the leaded paint in the 1950s because of lead poisoning concerns.
Children are most susceptible to lead poisoning. Even small amounts of lead can cause nerve damage, hyperactivity and other problems.
“We haven’t been able to demonstrate that children are being severely affected by lead-based paint,” said Donna Julian, the state’s lead program manager. “We’ll see if we can’t make some correlation. If there is some, then that’s ammunition that we can use to make people stand up and see that we need some type of legislation.”
This year the program is funded through a $250,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. In 1998, the federal government will require that companies offering lead inspection, risk assessment and abatement services be trained and certified.
If the state passes similar legislation, it still can collect federal funds for its lead program. The program is designed to raise awareness about lead poisoning, its causes and how to reduce the risk of lead poisoning.
“One of our problems is educating physicians,” Julian said. “In most of Idaho, the knowledge level is real low when it comes to lead poisoning.”
Children who have measurable levels of lead in their blood will be referred to their health care provider. The study will not include testing paint for lead, although people can get lead-testing kits at the health district. If a significant number of children do test positive for lead, Julian said the health department may follow up with a study next year to pinpoint the cause.
In any case where a child’s blood lead level exceeds 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood, the health district is required to conduct an investigation of the cause.
The risk of lead poisoning can be lessened by eating foods rich in calcium and iron, by good hygiene and reducing contact with lead.
“There are a lot of homes with lead paint still in there,” said Dave Hylsky of Panhandle Health District. “It’s not a problem when it’s intact and in shape, or if you don’t do any renovation.”
Children and animals sometimes like to chew on objects painted with leaded paint because it tastes sweet, Julian said.
The state’s increased interest in raising awareness of lead poisoning also was prompted by a new law that requires disclosure of the possibility of lead-based paint in homes built prior to 1978. Sellers are not required to test for leaded paint, only to notify buyers that the possibility exists that the home contains the toxic paint.
Families interested in participating in the state study can contact health district offices in Coeur d’Alene and Bonners Ferry to make an appointment. The tests will be conducted on July 11 in Coeur d’Alene and July 15 in Bonners Ferry.
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