TIOGA COUNTY, NY (WIVT/WBGH) – During the past year, 30 children in Tioga County had elevated blood lead levels which required action from the local health department and the child’s health care provider.

Lead poisoning is a serious health concern that can cause physical, mental, and developmental problems in children. It is a harmful, but treatable condition, especially if diagnosed early. Unlike having dirt on a child, you cannot tell that a child has elevated levels of lead in the body by just looking at them. This is why it is important to get children tested for lead at ages 1 and 2. A blood test is the only way to know if a child has elevated levels of lead in their blood.

New York State Public Health Law requires health care providers to make sure all children are tested at age 1 and again at age 2. According to the Tioga County Public Health Department, for children up to age 6, your doctor or nurse should ask you at every well-child visit about ways your child may have had contact with lead.

Lead can be found in and around the home including in soil, water, toys, and dust from peeling and cracked paint. Homes built before 1978 are more likely to contain lead-based paint, indoors and outdoors. According to the health department, almost 70% of homes in Tioga County were built before 1978, causing concern that many homes in that county may still contain lead paint. Lead is invisible and can easily be inhaled or swallowed.

One of the goals of Tioga County Public Health is to decrease lead poisoning in children. If a child has elevated lead levels, a home visit can be conducted to locate where lead is present. Home visits can provide the opportunity to look for lead sources and offer free home lead testing kits for families in Tioga County. Education is also provided regarding what lead poisoning is, why it is harmful, and what changes can be made in the home.

Some ways that you can reduce your child’s risk of lead poisoning are by washing hands with soap and water, taking shoes off before entering your home, and cleaning floors, windows, and toys often. You should also be aware of possible workplace exposures. If you potentially have exposure at work, you could help stop lead from getting into your home and vehicle by, washing, showering, and changing out of your work clothes and work shoes before leaving work.

Parents and caregivers can also help reduce the risk of lead being stored in a child’s body by increasing foods that contain calcium, iron, and vitamin C.

If you live in Tioga County and have concerns about lead being present in your home or soil around the home, you can call 607-687-8600 to schedule a Healthy Neighborhood visit. You can also learn more about the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program by visiting the Tioga County Public Health Department’s website. If you live outside of Tioga County, contact your local health department to find out about locally available resources. You can use this link to the New York State Department of Health for some additional information as well.