Updated March 26 at 7:54am
health care

Cuts threaten lead-poisoning program


WASHINGTON – Severe budget cuts – from $29 million to $2 million, a 94 percent reduction – in funding for the Centers for Disease Control’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Program threaten the effectiveness of the R.I. Department of Health’s Lead and Healthy Homes program, according to the R.I. Childhood Lead Action Project, or CLAP.

Nationwide, about 500,000 children a year rely on this program – including 200 children in Rhode Island – newly diagnosed with lead poisoning.

If the federal budget cuts remain, Rhode Island’s childhood lead poisoning prevention program will have to seriously reduce its capacity to monitor blood lead screening and respond to every child who has an elevated blood lead level with a home inspection and referrals for medical intervention and lead remediation. Additionally, the program’s prevention efforts will likely disappear regarding proactive housing policies, community education and outreach.

While the incidence of childhood lead poisoning is declining, Rhode Island saw a disturbing increase in the number of children hospitalized for lead poisoning last year. Only one child was hospitalized in 2010, but in 2011, five were hospitalized with dangerously high levels of lead in their blood.

“Gutting childhood lead poisoning prevention programs will leave more children behind and send us on a race to the bottom – not to the top,” said Roberta Hazen Aaronson, CLAP’s executive director.

The funding cut will widen the achievement gap between white and minority students, and between wealthy and poor students, according to CLAP. High blood lead levels are associated with a decline of about 15 percent in reading and math scores. Children poisoned by lead are seven times more likely to drop out of school and six times more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system. Studies show that educating a child with lead poisoning costs an extra $38,000.

CLAP, along with advocates nationwide, is calling on President Barack Obama to seek to reverse these budget cuts.

The cuts in funding come at a time when the CDC is considering lowering the threshold of lead in a child’s blood when intervention is needed. A 2009 study of Providence kindergarten children showed that two-thirds had too much lead in their blood, when using the lower threshold for intervention. In 2011 more than 1,700 Rhode Island children tested at this lower action level, according to CLAP.


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Pediatricians should be doing lead screening and provide resources at their office. Parents need to start taking some responsibility as well. What about landlords who know there is lead paint in their buildings? Who is keeping up with them? Who exactly is the population receiving these services? Is it only in minority communities? How about targeted education for specific high-risk communities instead of a big blanket statewide initiative? I'm sure there's enough data out there that shows exactly where the highest concentration of cases is. USE DATA to drive what you do!!! What about the School Nurse Teacher? Can she/he be used in some capacity? The way RI does business is "I've always done it this way." Well, that's not working anymore for people. Think out of the box people!!! As awful as it is that five children were hospitalized, does it really require the level of effort that this department currently supplies to deal with screening and giving people a resource to go to? C'mon. I am sure there is a way to do what they need to do, more efficiently and effectively with less dollars.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 | Report this

The five children hospitalized are just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands more children suffer the long term effects of lead poisoning. Yes, everyone plays a role; pediatricians, landlords, parents, childcare providers, and contractors. But without the CDC funds, all that has been learned about lead poisoning prevention, all the data that has been utilized to target high risk areas, all the services to help any family with a lead poisoned child to identify the source of the poisoning, and all the educational services, will go away and that will cost A LOT more than funding the Program. Lead Programs have been very successful and need to keep at it, now that we know that even very low levels of lead exposure have such devastating and costly repercussions. Tell the CDC not to be penny wise and pound foolish off the backs of vulnerable children.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 | Report this

Here is my petition to restore funding for lead poisoning prevention.

Please feel free to circulate this.


One of Congress's Most Damaging (and Racist) Budget Cuts That Flew Under the Radar

The fund for lead-poisoning prevention was almost entirely eliminated. And here's why this is such a big deal. READ MORE

By Peter Montague, Maria B. Pellerano / AlterNet

Thursday, February 16, 2012 | Report this

Teresa: Everything you suggest is doable and is happening in many states, but that doesn't happen without a coordinated effort spearheaded by a state or local program. We know our hot spots. We work with landlords, either before or after a child is poisoned, preferably before. School nurses can be a wonderful partner but by then a child has already experienced brain damage, however, she can advocate for the child in the learning institution. We have been using data to drive what we do for over 20 years. That is why we have been as successful as we have in reducing this disease. Unfortuntely many kids do not get the blood lead tests that they should and many go undiagnosed. If all children at risk got the required tests in Rhode Island you would see more children poisoned and more children hospitalized. The fact remains that kids continue to get poisoned because the paint companies chose profits over kids. If the paint companies would step up and take care of all of the housing with lead paint hazards (4 million in the US) then we wouldn't need this. We would just need to monitor lead in toys, lead in lipstick, lead in ... the list goes on and on.

Thursday, February 16, 2012 | Report this
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