In January 2016, a number of public health providers and local government officials formed a Lead Poisoning Prevention Task Force in response to renewed concerns about lead poisoning in the community. The re-established Lead Task Force has met monthly and spearheaded the creation of this Lead Poisoning Prevention and Remediation Action Plan.
Reasons for new concerns about lead poisoning in Calhoun County include:
Awareness of lead poisoning from water in Flint, Michigan;
The Calhoun County Public Health Department concerns about the low number of children under the age of six being tested for lead poisoning in the county and the need to increase testing and reporting of testing; and
The City of Battle Creek’s Community Development Division responsibility to report to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development about its efforts to reduce the impact of lead-based paint.
The most important reason for a renewed focus on reducing lead poisoning is to protect children from unnecessary suffering and health problems. Lead in the human body can cause lower IQ, hyperactivity, learning disabilities, hearing problems and in high levels can cause convulsions, coma, and death.
Lead-based paint is the leading cause of lead poisoning. While the federal government banned lead in residential paint products in 1978, the primary sources of lead exposure for children are still deteriorating lead-based paint, lead contaminated dust and lead contaminated residential soil. Unlike in Flint where lead poisoning was caused by contaminated water, the main sources of lead for children in Calhoun County and Battle Creek are lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust found in deteriorating buildings. More than 75% of Calhoun County's housing stock was built before 1978.
Children under the age of 6 years are at greatest risk because they are growing rapidly and because they tend to put their hands or other objects into their mouths. Children from all social and economic levels can be affected by lead poisoning, although children living at or below the poverty line who live in older housing are often most at risk.
Childhood lead poisoning is preventable by stopping children from coming into contact with lead and treating children who have been poisoned by lead. Lead hazards in a child’s environment can be identified and removed safely. Parents, health care professionals, educators, and the public need education about lead poisoning and how to prevent it. Children who are at risk for lead poisoning need to be tested and, if necessary, treated.
Lead poisoning impacts young children and their developing brain. Children are at risk of lead poisoning if they live in a house or visit a home/daycare built before 1978 that has paint that is chipping, peeling, cracking or chalking. Lead in paint, house dust and soil hurts a child’s health and can cause behavior problems such as learning disabilities, hyperactivity and poor hearing. Most children do not show signs of being sick from lead. The only way to find out if your child has lead poisoning is through a blood test done by your physician or the Health Department.