EDITORIAL: Meriden struggles with childhood lead poisoning

EDITORIAL: Meriden struggles with childhood lead poisoning


Meriden continues to suffer from high levels of childhood lead poisoning, primarily due to the high proportion of older housing here, houses that were built with lead-based paint. This is not a reason to panic, but it is a matter of concern. Fortunately, the city monitors reports of lead poisoning and follows up with property owners, as required by state law.

Unlike Flint, Michigan, where lead in the water supply became a hazard and a scandal last year, the main culprit in Connecticut cities is lead-based paint, which was banned for household use after 1978 but may still be in place in older homes. After the Flint scare, Meriden tested water in the elementary schools, and the results were negative.

Meriden came in fifth in the state in the number of cases of childhood lead poisoning in 2015, when the state Department of Public Health’s annual disease surveillance report found 75 cases in the city.

The four Connecticut municipalities with greater numbers of cases were New Haven, Bridgeport, Waterbury and Hartford.

Meriden’s per-capita rate of childhood lead poisoning was similar to that in Hartford, but less than half the rates found in New Haven and Waterbury.

Statewide, the number of new cases dropped slightly in 2015, while the number of children whose levels were 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter or higher grew. A child whose blood test shows 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter or higher is considered poisoned.

“The most common sources of lead poisoning in the city is due to exposure to lead-based paint, lead dust, and lead in bare soil exposure around homes,” said Lea Crown, the city’s health director. “With over 15,000 homes in Meriden built before 1978, there is the potential for exposure, particularly when renovations are being done.”

Lead paint can cause nervous system damage, stunted growth, kidney damage, and delayed development in children. It can also account for hyperactivity, and hearing loss that might not show up until the child is older.

Lead paint is especially dangerous to children because it tastes sweet, therefore toddlers and babies may put lead chips in their mouths.

“There was no known cluster identified” in Meriden, Crown said. “Any home built before 1978 has the potential to have lead-based paint.” In older homes, there can be lead-based paint under newer layers of safe paint.

The National Safety Council advises parents to:

• Inspect and maintain all painted surfaces in the home to prevent paint deterioration;

• Address water damage quickly and completely; and

• Keep the home clean and dust free, because household dust from deteriorating lead-based paint can be a major source of lead exposure for children.

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