Guest column / Protecting children against lead poisoning a priority | News, Sports, Jobs
Decades after we learned about the dangers of lead exposure, too many Ohio children continue to be poisoned by the homes they live in and the water they drink.
In 2018, more than 3,800 Ohio children tested positive for lead levels. And we know that the actual number of children exposed is likely much higher – many children at risk for lead poisoning never get tested. Sadly, many Ohio families only learn that their children were exposed to toxic levels of lead after they began to experience symptoms.
Early detection is essential so that children get the treatment they need to avoid the worst long-term health effects. Lead poisoning is a serious threat to the health of children which can lead to decreased cognitive performance, weight loss, and stunted growth. And children under 6 are most at risk.
That is why I joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues, including Senator Rob Portman, to present the Preventing Lead Poisoning Act. This legislation would ensure that children enrolled in Medicaid or the children’s health insurance program are tested for lead poisoning. Currently, only 38% of children on Medicaid receive the required screening tests.
Not only does testing ensure children get the follow-up care they need, but it also helps us identify and eliminate the dangers of lead where we find them. The best way to protect our children is to prevent lead poisoning before it happens.
According to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, more than two-thirds of homes in Ohio are old enough to contain at least some lead-based paint. And we all know the dangers of lead pipes. Ohioans remember the crisis in Sebring years ago, when families feared their drinking water was unsafe and the city spent tens of thousands of dollars on bottled water for residents. .
We need a transformative investment in infrastructure that inspires Ohioans to replace lead pipes and reduce lead in homes. This will create jobs and protect the health of children. No parent should have to worry about their children being poisoned by their home or their drinking water.
(Brown, a Democrat, represents Ohio in the United States Senate.)