Lead Exposure

Routine screenings and treatment, strong early learning opportunities with individualized supports, and proper nutrition are all part of catching lead exposure early and intervening to put children on a strong trajectory for the future.

By delivering such services, Head Start acts as a powerful intervention across the nation.

When the water crisis in Flint became headline news and the presence of lead exposure became a topic of national concern, people came forward from across the country, some with an outpouring of support and others with concerns of their own.

On March 3, 2015, the water at LeeAnne Walters’ house had lead levels 26 times what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers a cause for concern. She lives in Flint, Michigan. Just nine days later, a consulting group reported that Flint’s water—the same water making LeeAnne’s children lose their hair and break out in rashes—was safe. Despite the pleas of doctors and growing evidence from researchers, government officials waited 227 days, to change Flint’s water source.

On January 16, 2016 President Obama declared a federal emergency in Flint, and suddenly the whole country knew about the toxic water flowing through this small, 41.6% poor65% minority city.

The health threats posed by different sources of lead in St. Louis, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey joined Flint in the headlines. Yet, as people watched the details of the Flint tragedy unfold, the media left the false impression that the greatest risk for lead exposure is water. In fact, in most communities toxic lead paint, dust, and other sources pose a greater risk.

As the nation reacts to this tragedy, advocates, supporters, victims, and researchers hope to answer two questions: what systems will be in place to aid the residents of Flint as they face the effects of lead exposure for years to come? And what can we learn from Flint to help the thousands of other Americans suffering from lead in their environments, too?

Lead-poisoned water puts Flint’s 99,000 residents at risk for serious physical and mental health problems, ranging from headaches to behavioral issues to brain damage. Young children are especially vulnerable, and the effects can last a lifetime. For the 6,044 children in poverty in Flint, legislators, doctors, and researchers believe Head Start’s two-generation model is best suited to confront their short-term problems and create long-term solutions.

For Practioners

Head Start: A Necessary Intervention in Flint
On The Hill’s blog, NHSA Executive Director Yasmina Vinci writes about Head Start’s valuable intervention efforts in Flint, Michigan.

Lead Taints Drinking Water in Hundreds of Schools, Day Cares Across USA
Take a moment to find your region on this interactive map that allows you to see how many times your water source has tested at elevated lead levels.

What Your Child’s Blood Lead Test Means
The New York Department of Health published this easy-to-use resource online to breakdown the numbers parents get back from test results and inform them about how to minimize lead-exposure at home.

State Programs
The CDC has compiled a list of lead exposure information by specific cities and states.

Healthy Homes Assessment Tools
Houses are the number places for lead exposure. The CDC lists tools and resources to reduce risk.

Daycare and Classroom Outreach Materials
There are fact sheets available in five different languages, talking points to help start a conversation about lead, and useful classroom materials such as songs and crafts.

For Parents

Protect Your Family from Exposures to Lead
​Check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s risk evaluation checklist to have the information that you need to keep your family and home safe.​

Blood Lead Levels in Children
The CDC published this resource for parents to share some quick facts and provide a clear plan of action about how to make their homes more lead-safe.

Choosing Safe Toys
Toys that are imported from other countries can pose a threat. KidsHealth shares guidelines on choosing safe toys for your child.

For Pregnant People

Are you pregnant?
This fact sheet covers what lead exposure can do, where it can be found, why you need to be especially careful, and who you should talk to about your risk factors.

Lead and Pregnancy
What are risk factors? Are you looking for prevention tips? For topical information about the threats of lead, this is a great place to start.

Child Lead Poisoning: A Preventable Harm
Co-sponsored by the Coalition on Human Needs, First Focus, Children’s Leadership Council, Partnership for America’s Children, and NHSA, this webinar provides expert evidence about the consequences of lead poisoning in children, examples of work being done in Flint and Philadelphia, and information about Congressional proposals to fund the solutions.

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