Report: Percentage of children with elevated lead levels drops in Monroe County

Lead Poisoning

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(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story reported that a higher percentage of Monroe County children tested positive for elevated lead levels in 2022 compared to 2021 based on information provided by the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning, which has updated its report.)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Fewer Monroe County children tested positive for elevated levels of lead in their blood last year as compared to 2021.

That is according to the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning, which released its latest report on Monday.

There was a nearly 29 percent decrease in the number of children who had confirmed lead levels of 5 micrograms per deciliter or more. The Centers for Disease Control considers 3.5 micrograms per deciliter as the baseline for lead in the blood.

In 2022, 140 children had confirmed readings above that baseline, which is down from the 196 in 2021.

There was a 37 percent increase in the number of children who were screened.

How does a child get lead poisoning?

Dr. Stanley Schaffer- Prof of Pediatrics at Golisano Children’s Hospital, co-chair of the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning’s Screening & Professional Education Committee and director of the Western New York Lead Poisoning Resource Center:

“Oh, so there are many possible ways. Usually it’s the home environment, old paint that’s deteriorating or has become dust. Sometimes we see just from opening and closing windows, that friction can cause some paint to become a dust settle and on the windowsill and can become available to the child. Children often will chew on window shells because lead paint tastes sweet. It can be other things as well. It can be water from the lead pipes that the old home may have. Or, you know, it can be things like spices that come from other countries. Turmeric, for instance, and in some cases, cinnamon can contain lead from certain parts of the world.”

How does lead affect children?

Mel Callan- Chair of Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning:

“It’s because their brain development, the synapses in their brain, is forming mostly in the younger ages, up to two years of age. And so that’s when the lead affects the brain cells. And it’s it has incredible effect on the children and their behavior. And parents don’t know that they’re being then poisoned because it just takes a very small amount of lead dust that they ingest to make a difference in a child’s life.”

The Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning, a nonprofit based in Rochester, says educating parents on the dangers of lead poisoning is critical for getting children tested or getting them help.

“Ongoing education is critical to ensuring that new parents and new members of our community understand the risks and have access to resources to help them lessen the effects elevated blood lead levels can have on their children’s development,” said Dr. Stanley Schaffer.

Get your home tested for lead paint here.

Learn more about lead paint in Rochester here.