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Lead still poisons thousands of Midwestern kids : Shots - Health News

Niara Savage Allison Kite
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Lisa Pascoe
Brian Munoz
Elizabeth Friedman
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Justina Yohannan
Daniel Pascoe
Tammi Holmes
Philip Landrigan
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Roberts said."They'll
Joe Biden
Bruce Lanphear
David Pascoe
Yandell Henderson
Jared Strong


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St. Louis
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the United States
St. Louis County
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Positivity     40.57%   
   Negativity   59.43%
The New York Times
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Everything in her St. Louis, Mo., home had been remodeled.But then the nurse called to say her son's blood lead level was dangerously high — five times the level federal health officials then deemed elevated.Pascoe said she was "completely shocked.""After you hang up on the phone, you kind of go through this process of 'Oh my gosh, my kid is lead poisoned. Her toddler's blood lead level began to drop from its high of 25 micrograms per deciliter.But that wasn't enough to keep his lead level low.Even though Pascoe kept her son from playing outside, cleaned regularly with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter provided by the health department, and wiped off everything that could track lead dust into the home — from shoes to the family dog's feet — her son's level hovered at six micrograms per deciliter for nearly a year.In 2013, Pascoe and her son moved out of the city and into a home without lead in St. Louis County. The city of St. Louis separated from St. Louis County in the late 19th century and operates as a separate local government.Follow-up on lower levels of exposure is focused mostly on educating parents and families about the risks and dangers of lead.For higher levels of exposure, health workers use an X-ray fluorescence analyzer during assessments to test components of the home for lead."The most common source of lead exposure in the county is lead-based paint. "Even though that was 50 years ago, that line of thinking is still alive and well."While many cities have grants or loans available to help remediate homes, low-income families in rental housing don't always have the final say.Amy Roberts, who runs the lead-poisoning prevention program in Kansas City, Mo., said landlords are often cooperative and allow for repairs when their tenants' children are lead poisoned. "They have to fix it."While Omaha has struggled with contamination brought on by the smelters, she said that legacy has allowed the county and city to be more aggressive in remediating contamination and preventing lead poisoning.Omaha provides a home inspection to any family with a child whose blood lead level is greater than 3.5 micrograms per deciliter. Their two-year-old daughter only uses toys and crayons that are lead-free and the family eats from glass dishes.By the time the U.S. started phasing lead out of gasoline, banned it in residential paint in the 1970s and outlawed lead water pipes in 1986, scientists had been warning of the dangers of lead for decades.In 1925, as use of lead in gasoline gained momentum, Yandell Henderson, a professor at Yale University, told a gathering of engineers that it would slowly poison vast numbers of Americans."He said that if a man had his choice between the two diseases, he would choose tuberculosis rather than lead poisoning," the New York Times wrote at the time.A concerted effort by the lead industry staved off regulations, Lanphear said.Lanphear said he was invited to speak to Omaha residents 20 years ago about lead poisoning. At the end, he took questions."There was this big burly guy with a flannel shirt, beard (who) got up — trucker's hat — and he got teary and he said, 'I worked at the smelter for years, and every morning, I was ordered to reverse the flow and discharge all the contaminants that they had scrubbed out during the day.'"There are stories that "just break your heart" showing how flawed regulation was, Lanphear said, and how "irresponsible" the industry was.The legacy of the lead is well documented among adults who grew up surrounded by the metal.Forty years ago, more than 90% of children had blood lead levels above 10 micrograms per deciliter, almost triple the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new reference value.Researchers estimated last month that just over half of Americans alive today were exposed to high lead levels as children, especially those born between 1951 and 1980. Their two-year-old daughter only uses toys and crayons that are lead-free, and the family eats from glass dishes to avoid contact with lead that could leach into food from ceramic plates and bowls.Lisa avoids wearing jewelry her toddler might put in her mouth and doesn't visit older or recently renovated homes that could contain lead hazards.Other parents are often shocked when Pascoe tells them about her son's lead poisoning."Some people probably think kind of like I did initially.

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