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Posted on: August 9, 2023

Media Release General Health Information-August 9th, 2023

Media Release General Health Information – August 9, 2023 


Immediate Release 


General Health Information 

Phone: 704-216-8859 

Child Lead Exposures and Toxicity  

Over the years there have been many national headlines that point to old and deteriorating water lines and rental properties as the leading causes of child lead exposure. However, the fact of the matter is, lead exposure and toxicity are something that all parents and caregivers of children should be aware of.  


From January 2020 to December 2022 Rowan County Public Health had 18 reports of child lead cases.  However, since the beginning of 2023, there have already been 11 elevated child lead cases under investigation through Environmental Health Child Lead Program. The Rowan County Public Health child lead nurse is following an additional 17 cases 


Lead is a naturally occurring metal that, when ingested, can interfere with child's physical and developmental growth by affecting every system of the body, including the nervous system and brain development. Lead poisoning capresent as slowed learning and behavioral problems and can be seen as early as the preschool years. Even small amounts of lead from old paint chips or dust from lead can cause harm to a child's body. Three of the most common sources of lead poisoning are deteriorating lead-based paint, lead contaminated dust, and lead contaminated residential soil.  

All children are tested for lead between the ages of one and two by their pediatricians. If there is reason to believe that a child has been exposed to lead or is showing symptoms of lead exposure, parents can opt to have additional tests performed. If a child’s blood lead level is 3.5 micrograms per deciliter or higher, the Rowan County Public Health nurse who handles child lead cases is notified. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention uses a blood lead reference value (BLRV) of 3.5 micrograms per deciliter to identify children with blood lead levels that are higher than most children’s levels. This level is based on the on the 97.5th percentile of the blood lead values among U.S. of children ages 1-5 years from the 2015-2016 and 2017-2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) cycles. 


If a child’s blood lead level is between five and 9.9 micrograms per deciliter, Rowan County Public Health-Environmental Health is notified to offer an optional investigation. A blood lead level exceeding 10 micrograms per deciliter requires a state required investigation by Environmental Health.  


The North Carolina Department General Statute, 130A-131.9A, when Environmental Health learns of confirmed lead poisoning, they shall investigate to identify lead poisoning hazards to children. These investigations can take place in residential housing units where the child with confirmed lead poisoning resides, supplemental addresses of the child, child-occupied facility occupied, regularly visited, or attended by the child. 

Children who are experiencing lead poisoning might experience the following physical symptoms: stomach pain, headachesvomitinga feeling of weakness, seizures, and a coma. Extremely elevated levels of lead may result in death if not tested for and treated. 


How to Prevent Lead Poisoning  

  • Unsure of how old your home isIf you do not know how old your home is, assume there is lead. In the United States, lead is in paint in 87% of homes built before 1940, 69% of homes built from 1940–1959, and 24% of homes built from 1960–1977. Ask the landlord about lead before you sign a lease. Before you buy a home, have it inspected for lead.
  • Before any work is done on your home, learn about safe ways to make repairs. When repairs are being made, seal off the area until the job is done and keep your child away until everything is cleaned up. Be sure to use a certified contractor. Removing lead paint on your own can often make the condition worse. If work is not done the safe way, you and your child can be harmed by increased exposure to lead in dust.
  • Keep your children away from old windows, old porches, and areas with chipping or peeling paint. If this paint is in your home, cover it with duct tape or contact paper until it can be completely removed. If you rent your home, let your landlord know about any peeling or chipping paint. Landlords are legally required to repair lead problems found on their property. 
  • Do not allow your child to play in the dirt next to your old home. Plant grass over bare soil or use mulch or wood chips. 
  • 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. 
  • Teach your children to wash their hands, especially before eating. Wash pacifiers and toys regularly. 
  • Keep clean. If your work or hobbies involve lead, change your clothes and shoes and shower when finished. Keep your clothes at work or wash your work clothes as soon as possible. 
  • Use cold flushed tap water for mixing formuladrinking or cooking. If you live in an older home, run the water for several minutes before using it in the morning and start with cold water for drinking or cooking. 
  • Eat healthy. Give your child a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods that are high in calcium and iron. A good diet can help your child absorb less lead. 

The only way to detect lead poisoning is for a care provided to draw blood and test for elevated levels. This blood test is common part of child well visits for children under six as a preventative measure. If you suspect a child may be exposed to lead, contact your child's pediatrician, and request a blood test. If someone is found to have an abnormal amount of lead in their blood, an Environmental Health Specialist will help coordinate an investigation.  


Courtney Meece 

(704) 216-8818 

Download: Media Release General Health Information-August 9th, 2023

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