Maryland to Require Lead Testing For Children Ages 1 and 2

Amid continuing concerns about the long term effects of lead paint poisoning, a new plan in Maryland seeks to have all children who are between the ages of 1 and 2 years old tested for lead blood levels, regardless of where in the state they live. 

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced the new Lead Testing Targeting Plan for Childhood Lead (PDF) on October 26, during a week he declared as Lead Poisoning Prevention Week in the state.

The plan will require testing of children ages 1 and 2 statewide, while previous state testing requirements focused only on children living in “at risk” zip codes, which were usually urban areas known to contain older housing that is likely to have lead paint remnants. Those enrolled in Medicaid are also automatically tested currently.

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Children diagnosed with lead poisoning after exposure to peeling or chipping lead paint in a rental home may be entitled to financial compensation and benefits.

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The new directive came after state agencies determined that testing was needed across the entire state. A recent study conducted by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Department of the Environment found children in all of the state’s jurisdictions with blood lead levels that exceeded the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s limits of five micrograms per deciliter of blood.

“We have made great progress in reducing lead exposure in Maryland over the past 20 years,” Governor Hogan said in the press release. “However, we need to test all children, not just a handful, in order to put an end to childhood lead poisoning in Maryland once and for all.”

The new testing requirements follow changes to mandatory lead laws for rental units which changed at the beginning of 2015. The new rules extend mandatory lead risk reduction requirements for rental units to all rental properties built before 1978. Previously, the requirements only affected rental units built before 1950.

The new childhood testing plan would be in effect for at least three years. At the end of that time period the plan would be re-evaluated based on the data collected and trends seen among Maryland children.

Nationwide, the CDC estimates that 535,000 children ages 1-5, or about 2.6% of such children in the U.S., have levels of lead in their blood that place them at risk for adverse health effects. To come up with that number, the CDC analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from the years 1999 to 2002, and 2007 through 2010.

Lead poisoning for children can result in nervous system injury, brain damage, seizures or convulsions, growth or mental retardation, coma and even death for young children.

One of the more common causes of of lead poisoning is lead-based paint, which was banned in the United States in 1978 due to the risk of severe and permanent brain damage and developmental problems, particularly in children. However, a number of older homes still contain the toxic paint on the walls, and if it flakes or peals off, young children could ingest the paint chips or breathe dust that comes from the paint, resulting in lead poisoning.

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