Among children, lead poisoning is still a chronic environmental hazard. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 4 million households have children ages 1 to 5 with blood lead levels above five micrograms per deciliter, the reference level that the CDC recommends public health actions be initiated. And serious cases of lead poisoning still appear in hospital emergency rooms, clinics, and physicians’ offices. In children, no developing organ is immune to the effects of lead poisoning.
The primary source of lead exposure for most Oregon children is lead-based paint particles inside or outside of older homes where lead-based paint is chipping or where renovation leaves leadbased paint dust.
Lead affects almost all systems of a child’s body, particularly the nervous system.
An average of six IQ points may be lost due to lead poisoning when children’ blood lead levels in the range of 1to 9.9 micrograms per deciliter.
From $552 to $878 million in lifetime earnings are lost for children born each year due to decreased IQ from lead exposure in Oregon.
Oregon has a relatively low overall prevalence of lead poisoning, but 1,000 to 2,000 children have blood lead levels of 10 micrograms per deciliter or higher.
Only about 4 percent of Oregon children under the age of 6 are tested for lead poisoning although many more children are still at risk.
Among Oregon’s children living at or below the poverty level, one-third live in areas where 22 percent or more of the housing units were built before 1950.
The average cost of remediation of a lead hazard is $10,000 per housing unit. Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties have funding through a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to offset costs for lead abatement for homeowners who meet certain financial need requirements. There is no available assistance for the rest of the state.
Source: Oregon Public Health Division, Office of Environmental Public Health. “Impact of environmental exposures in Oregon: Childhood lead poisoning.”