News: Public Health

DHS initiative targets childhood lead poisoning

Tuesday, February 26, 2019  
Posted by: Wisconsin Health News
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The Department of Health Services is seeking approval from lawmakers for a new initiative targeting childhood lead poisoning. 

The department submitted its request earlier this month. It's subject to approval by the Joint Finance Committee through a passive review process under a recent state law. The federal government will also have to sign off on it.

The program would fund the identification and abatement of lead hazards in older homes, where lead-based paint can cause health and developmental problems for children. It would also fund training on lead abatement and outreach.

The $14.5 million proposal, with an anticipated $13.7 million coming from the federal government, could lead to 1,000 property abatements a year. The state funding would come from the administrative portion of the Children's Health Insurance Program. 

The department would prioritize eligible properties that are subject to lead hazard reduction work orders from local health departments as well as homes with children that have elevated blood lead levels that meet the definition of lead poisoning.

It'll also target funds toward communities based on the percentage of young children with elevated blood lead levels, the percentage of the population being low-income and the number of properties dating before 1950. 

According to the letter, more than 200,000 Wisconsin children under the age of 6 had blood lead levels higher than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's threshold for lead poisoning between 1996 and 2016.

While the exact number isn't known, an estimated 169,000 to 424,000 homes throughout the state may have lead hazards, the letter noted.

If committee members don't raise an objection to the plan by March 5, department officials will continue the process to submit the proposal to the federal government. 

Health officials plan to obtain federal approval "as early as possible" to start abatement efforts with the summer construction season and take advantage of a favorable federal matching rate for state dollars. 

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