The Indiana Department of Health is encouraging all parents to have their children younger than age 6 tested for lead exposure as part of legislation that took effect Jan. 1, 2023.
House Enrolled Act 1313 requires all healthcare providers serving children to offer lead testing to their patients, ideally at their 1- and 2-year checkups, or as close as possible to those appointments. Providers also are advised to offer testing to any child younger than age 6 who does not have a record of a prior blood lead test. Previously, only Indiana children covered by Medicaid were required to be tested for lead at ages 12 and 24 months.
“There is no safe level of lead, and the sooner we can identify that a child is at risk, the earlier we can take steps to improve the health outcomes for that child,” said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG. “By having parents and providers understand the importance of asking for this simple blood test, we have an opportunity to protect hundreds of Indiana children each year from the harmful effects of lead.”
Lead exposure can damage the brain and nervous system, causing slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems, issues with hearing and speech, impulsivity, nausea and other debilitating effects. It is more toxic to unborn and younger children but can negatively impact adults as well. Early intervention, including proper nutrition and removal of sources of lead exposure, can lower lead levels in individuals.
Most lead poisoning in Indiana stems from chipping or peeling lead paint that mixes with dust in the air. Other common sources of lead are contaminated soil, drinking water and, occasionally, children’s toys and jewelry.
IDOH is launching a public awareness campaign to bring attention to the importance of this testing with a new website, www.IndianaLeadFree.org, and messaging to the public and providers in communities across the state.
In addition, IDOH is partnering with the NAACP and Hoosier Environmental Council to conduct community outreach through the Health Issues and Challenges Grant program, which awarded $900,000 in 2022 for community-based lead prevention and awareness programming. The two organizations are developing plans for outreach in counties including La Porte, Madison, Clinton, Allen, Grant, Vanderburgh, Marion, Clark, St. Joseph and Lake.
The universal screening law follows last July’s move to lower Indiana’s blood lead reference level to 3.5 micrograms/deciliter to align with levels established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Under these new guidelines, children with blood lead levels between 3.5 and 4.9 micrograms per deciliter and their families receive education about risks and are advised to test siblings. Children with a confirmed level of 5 or above are enrolled in case management, and families of these children are encouraged to allow health department staff to do a home risk assessment, which includes discussing potentially leaded objects and surfaces and identifying educational, nutritional and developmental support services that may be available to the child. The home assessment will also test surfaces to determine where lead hazards may exist and help the family determine how to best address those.
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