The City of St. Louis continues its work to reduce the instances of lead poisoning among city residents. One method of identifying lead poisoning is by screening children between the ages of six months to six years to measure for any exposure of lead. According to the Environmental Racism report, black children in the City of St. Louis are 2.4 times more likely than white children to have an elevated blood lead level and account for more than 70% of children suffering from lead poisoning. This data is echoed by the Equity Indicators Project report released this past January.
This week is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. Lead can be found around the home. The most common source of exposure is from lead-based paint and dust, which was used in many homes built before 1978 and comprises the majority of housing stock in St. Louis. Adults and children can get lead into their bodies by swallowing lead dust that settles in food, on food preparation surfaces, floors, window sills, and in soil, or by breathing in the lead dust. Lead exposure for children is more likely to cause lifelong learning, behavior, and health effects.
As part of the effort to reduce lead exposure, the City of St. Louis Department of Health is working with the Saint Louis County Department of Public Health to create a “Healthy Homes Coalition.” This group will take a regional approach to better the public’s health inside their own homes in St. Louis. The initiative is meeting with stakeholders this week to learn more about the path the coalition needs to look at to incorporate the United States Housing and Urban Development’s Eight Tips for Keeping a Healthy Home, which are:
- Keep it dry
- Keep it clean
- Keep it safe
- Keep it well-ventilated
- Keep it pest-free
- Keep it contaminant-free
- Keep it well-maintained
- Thermally controlled
“Accomplishing these eight items is critical to protecting the health of our neighbors in St. Louis,” says Dr. Fredrick L. Echols, director of health for the City of St. Louis. “The Healthy Homes Coalition will work with stakeholders who provide in-home services to identify residents in need of help to make or keep their homes healthy. Once concerns are identified, the residents can be connected with resources and assistance organizations,” says Echols.
“Healthy Homes is an excellent program that we have been invested in building for the last several years,” says Spring Schmidt, co-director of the Saint Louis County Department of Public Health. “Providing services to protect children in their homes and prevent illness is one of the primary goals of public health. This coalition will bring together those that are working on this issue to expand and collaborate across the region,” says Schmidt.
Through improved partnerships between the City of St. Louis Department of Health, the Saint Louis County Department of Public Health, and stakeholder organizations, the work continues to reduce the number of elevated blood lead level cases in the City of St. Louis. The city Department of Health is also exploring strategic partnerships to increase the rate of lead screenings for the city’s children.
Any parent or guardian of a child between six months and six years of age can discuss blood lead level screenings with their primary care physician. Screenings are also available for children between six months and six years of age at the City of St. Louis Department of Health. Appointments are preferred and can be made by calling 314-657-1515; however, walk-ins are also accepted. Screenings are provided Monday through Friday during the hours of 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., except for the lunch hour (approximately 12:00-1:00 p.m.). Services are unavailable during city holidays.
Additional information on the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/.
Department of Health
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