BUFFALO, N.Y. — Parents of children with lead poisoning face plenty of uncertainty. Erie County is starting a program to provide resources for those parents.
Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) and Beyond Boundaries is offering a free program, called Lead it Go, to help address the risk of harmful developmental delays that can be caused by lead poisoning.
The ECDOH Division of Environmental Health’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention program can refer children under three with elevated blood lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter.
About 400 children in Erie County would be eligible this year.
The program is free, and families can participate in the programing for up to a year. After that point they may transition to Early Intervention if eligible.
The program will provide monthly visits from occupational therapists, special educators and nutritionists as part of the training the parent model.
“One of the potential effects of lead poisoning can be learning difficulties that appear when a child is old enough to attend school,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “Early supportive services may help with a child’s future growth, development and educational outcomes, and that is why we are glad to offer Lead it Go to families in our county.”
The visits will take place at the family's home or at a community center, depending on the family's preference. Interpretation services will also be available for families who don't speak English.
ECDOH provides the following tips for avoid exposing children:
- Test your home for lead: If your home was built before 1978, call the Division of Environmental Health (716-961-6800) for information about home lead testing. If you do not know the age of your home, assume it may contain lead. Homes built before 1978 in the Northeast are most likely to have lead paint. Renters can ask the landlord about lead before signing a lease. Home buyers should include lead testing as part of the home inspection.
- Learn about safe ways to make repairs/renovations. Call the Division of Environmental Health (716-961-6800) for information about lead-safe training classes for free do-it-yourself home owners. Be sure to get lead-safe training or use a certified contractor, as any home renovation project that disturbs lead-based paint can create a hazard for your family. If work is not done safely, you and your child can be harmed by increased exposure to lead dust. Always keep your child away from renovation areas until everything is cleaned up.
- Keep children away from old windows, old porches, and areas with chipping or peeling paint. Cover those areas with duct tape or contact paper until it can be safely renovated. If you rent your home, inform your landlord about any peeling or chipping paint. Landlords are legally required to repair lead problems on their property.
- Pregnant women should consider asking about lead testing during prenatal care visits.
- Lead may be present in soil. Do not allow your child to play in the bare dirt next to your older home.
- Cover bare soil/earth by planting grass or by using mulch or wood chips to cover the dirt.
- Lead is often present in dust, so it is important to clean your home regularly. Wipe down floors and other level surfaces with a damp mop or sponge.
- Taking shoes off at the door can help reduce tracking in dirt and dust.
- Teach your children to wash their hands often, especially before eating.
- Wash pacifiers and toys regularly.
- If your work or hobbies involve exposure to lead, change your clothes and shoes and shower when finished. Keep your clothes at work, or wash your work clothes separately as soon as possible to avoid contamination of other laundry. It is particularly important for workers using lead to prevent take-home exposure to young children and pregnant women.
- Eat healthy: Give your child a well-balanced diet that includes breakfast and food high in calcium and iron. A good diet can help your child absorb less lead.
- Flush the taps! Run the COLD water for 1-2 minutes before using it in the morning and anytime it has not been used for six or more hours. Always start with cold water for mixing formula, drinking or cooking. In all situations, drink or cook only with water that comes out of the tap cold. Water that comes out of the tap warm or hot can contain much higher levels of lead. Boiling this water will NOT reduce the amount of lead in your water.
- Test your tap water for lead. In Erie County, lead paint chips and dust are the main sources of lead exposure. If you suspect lead in drinking water, ask your water provider whether your water contains lead. For homes served by public water systems, data on lead in tap water may be available on the Internet from your local water authority. To test your tap water: in Buffalo, call 311; the New York State Department of Health offers a free Lead Testing Pilot Program ((518) 402-7650).