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The Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program in the county is administered by the Food, Lodging and Institutions Program of Environmental Health. The purpose of the program is to promote childhood lead poisoning prevention, provide lead paint exposure case management to children under 6 years of age who have elevated lead levels and apply State rules and regulations addressing childhood lead poisoning prevention.
Lead is a heavy metal which has had a long and varied use in human society. Its use has ranged from eating and drinking utensils to medicinal purposes. In the 20th century, its greatest uses were probably as an additive to gasoline and paints. Lead was essentially eliminated from gasoline in the US at the end of the 1970's. In 1978 the
US Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of lead in paint at levels above .06%. However, a large portion of the residential housing units in the US were built before 1978 and still contain significant levels of lead-based paint or lead-laden dust or soil contaminated as a result of lead-based paint use. Other sources of lead include:
Lead is a toxin to the human body. It is acquired by ingesting or breathing and can then be absorbed into the bloodstream where its effects can be broad. Children with elevated blood lead levels of only 10 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dl) may suffer adverse effects on their learning abilities. Higher levels can cause increased learning disabilities, behavioral problems, slowed growth, kidney and brain damage, and in severe cases, coma or death. Adults are also affected by high blood lead levels including reproductive organ damage, central nervous system damage, miscarriage, and high blood pressure.
Children, under the age of six years, who reside in target housing (pre-1978), should have their blood tested for lead by their pediatrician or other health care provider. The initial check is usually done with a simple finger-stick test. If there is an elevated blood lead level then a second test (venous) will be done. Confirmed blood lead levels of 5 ug/dl or greater will trigger medical, nutritional, and environmental follow up from health professionals.
The program administers the State Rule addressing Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention in the county. These rules address conditions where children under 6 years of age have been identified as having lead poisoning (or having an elevated blood lead level) or have potential exposure to lead hazards in schools, day cares or similar settings. Activities performed under these rules include:
These rules also provide for voluntary enrollment in the
Preventative Maintenance Program for pre-1978 housing owners, where such housing can be made 'lead-safe'. This certification then provides the property owner relief from certain liability and financial institution discrimination.
North Carolina's Preventative Maintenance Program was created to provide landlords and other interested property owners with a cost-effective avenue to establish and maintain lead-safe housing on their properties. Enrollees are provided with a certificate of compliance that confers statutory liability relief as long as the property remains in compliance with the necessary requirements. Property value enhancement and creating lead-safe housing are two other benefits to the owners and community.