Among the many difficulties associated with the coronavirus pandemic is how COVID-19 had a way of overshadowing other health concerns. People became wary of seeking treatment for other issues as health care, as it needed to do, became intently focused on the crisis.
As the Record-Journal recently reported, among the health concerns taking a back seat to the virus has been lead poisoning. Because of the restrictions necessitated by COVID-19, “it is difficullt to accurately count the number of incidents of lead poisoning, whether due to doctors’ reluctance to send kids for testing, parents’ reluctance to get their kids tested, drawing stations being closed to the public, and other factors,” said Rodney Delgado, environmental health sanitarian at the Meriden Health and Human Services Department.
Those at the greatest risk for lead exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include children living “in households at or below the federal poverty level and those who live in housing built before 1978...”
“Also, communities of color are at a higher risk of lead exposure because they may not have access to safe, affordable housing or face discrimination when trying to find a safe, healthy place to live,” says the CDC.
Lead was commonly used in paint before the 1970s. Lead-based paints were banned for residential use in 1978 after it was discovered they posed a health risk for children. Jennifer Haile, director of the Hartford Lead Treatment center, told the R-J the earlier it can be detected the better. “Lead poisoning causes effects on the developing brain, can affect IQ, attention and hyperactivity problems,” she said. “It can affect growth, speech delay. It affects almost all of the child.”
It adds up to a good reason to bring testing back to the levels before the onset of the pandemic. According to CDC estimates, lead testing rates dropped by half a million children during the first five months of 2020 compared to the same time period the year before.
A year and a half into the pandemic, we’re regaining some balance, and some of that needs to involve returning to the precautions in place before the virus demanded so much of our attention and worry. Doing what we can to keep children safe is obviously high on that list of health concerns.