Chatham Co. Health Dept. offers free lead poisoning screenings

WSAV NOW

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV)—This week is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, a nationwide effort to raise awareness of possible exposure to lead in your home.

Lead exposure can be damaging for early childhood development, but according to the Chatham County Health Department, it’s easy to detect.

A blood test can reveal elevated lead levels, so the Chatham County Health Department is offering free screenings this week.

Last year in Chatham County, more than 3,600 children under 6-years-old were tested for lead exposure, and 86 of them had blood lead levels that were too high.

Even low levels of lead in blood can affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic
achievement.

“You may live in a brand new house with no lead-based paint, and still your child can get exposed to lead in other ways,” Georgia Coastal Health District’s Maria Wargovich said. “They can have a decrease in IQ, they can have hearing loss, behavioral problems, and can be attention-deficit.”

The effects of lead exposure cannot be reversed if damage has occurred. Wargovich says it’s important to detect elevated blood lead levels early so you can stop further exposure.

“The most common source of lead exposure is from lead-based paint, which you often find in
homes built before 1978,” Dr. Chris Rustin, Administrator of the Chatham County Health
Department said. “Savannah is well known for its historic architecture, but our older housing supply means many children could be exposed to lead in paint or the soil.”

When lead paint gets old, it can start peeling and become a hazard, Wargovich said. Adults and children can get lead into their bodies by breathing in the lead or by swallowing lead dust that settles in food, food preparation surfaces, floors, window sills, and other places, or eating paint chips or soil that contain lead.

A child can be exposed to lead through other means including toys, jewelry, fishing lures, glazed pottery, and other products.

If you would like to have your child tested, contact the Chatham County Health Department at
912-356-2441 to make an appointment for a free screening between now and October 30.
More information about lead poisoning is available at cdc.gov/nceh/lead/.

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