June 15, 2022
In 2020, more than 1,000 Connecticut children had toxic levels of lead in their blood, but only 178 investigations were completed. According to an expert, lead poisoning is a “hidden epidemic” in Connecticut – but recent legislation could help change that. Last month, Governor Ned Lamont signed House Bill (HB) 5045, An Act Reducing Lead Poisoning, which will strengthen Connecticut’s standards for lead poisoning in children. The bill will align Connecticut’s standards with federal guidelines by “gradually reducing the blood lead level that triggers parental notifications and home inspections to align more closely with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics”. “I view environmental toxins, especially lead, as a hidden epidemic,” said physician Andrew Wong, MD, of Hartford HealthCare Medical Group in Westport. “Lead poisoning is not like an infection where you see clear and sudden symptoms; it causes more subtle but more serious effects such as neurodevelopmental delays including hearing and speech impairment. , stunted growth, and decreased IQ.Especially in children under the age of 6, undiagnosed lead poisoning can lead to lifelong conditions such as ADHD, intellectual disability, and autistic traits. Lead poisoning in children comes from lead paint in older homes. Lead-based paints were banned in 1978, but many homes in Connecticut that were built before that still have traces of lead paint.” In Connecticut, there are a lot of houses that were built around the turn of the century and there may be paint chips from those houses that contain lead.” said Dr. Wong. “These lead flakes and dust, which are undetectable by sight and smell, mix with the surrounding soil, water and even air. Young children, who by nature continually put toys and fingers in their mouths, are most likely to ingest or breathe in this environmental toxin. HB 5045 lowers the detection threshold for lead in the blood. Previously, if a child was found to have higher than normal amounts of lead in their blood, it was the parents’ responsibility to find and eliminate the source. Now, a blood lead level of 5 micrograms will automatically trigger a state inspection to determine the source of lead exposure. “When you buy a house, you can have it inspected for lead,” Dr. Wong said. “But if you’re renting, you might not know if there’s lead in the house. HB 5045 will help us to be more proactive. If detected early, treatment is available to remove lead from our blood, but once it is deposited in the brain and nerves, it becomes a chronic condition. Dr. Wong also advises adults to have their lead and other environmental toxin levels checked. Symptoms of lead poisoning can include:
- Memory loss.
- Abdominal pain.
- Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet.
Prolonged exposure to lead in adults can cause
decreased fertility, depression and dementia. “All children under the age of three should automatically have annual blood tests for lead, but for all children and adults, if you have any of the symptoms or conditions listed above, you should speak with your
to have a blood test for lead and other heavy metals,” advises Dr. Wong.