More on HB 166–lead screening for Delaware kids.

House Bill 166, which calls for testing of all Delaware kids for blood lead levels, is on the House of Representatives agenda for June 27th.  This is an important bill because, if it were implemented, numbers of kids might be saved from life-long impairment.

We have written about this bill and the underlying problem before.

Several aspects of lead poisoning are worth thinking about right now:

Where is the support for HB 166 from Delaware’s lethargic public health bureaucracy?  Where is the support from the Nemours Foundation, which more or less claims to be the gatekeeper for childrens’ health in Delaware?  (“As a nonprofit children’s health organization, we consider the health of every child to be a sacred trust.”)  Where is the support from the medical establishment?  Delaware Academy of Medicine.Medical Society of Delaware (“To guide, serve and support Delaware Physicians, promoting the practice and profession of medicine to enhance the health of our communities.”)   We checked these websites for mention of HB 166 and found nothing.

Perhaps one does not have to be too cynical to suspect that there is a lot more money to be made in treatment than prevention….

But aside from this, Delaware has had a role in keeping people exposed to lead, if only through the uber-shameful role of the DuPont Company, historically a major vendor of both lead paints and lead additives for gasoline.  DuPont fought the phaseout of these products. 

DuPont’s Chambers Works, just North of the Delaware Memorial Bridge on the New Jersey side, was once one of the biggest chemical manufacturing sites in the world.  A major product was tetraethyllead (TEL), used to spike gasoline with lead.  Visitors to the site could see tons of lead (or lead alloy) bars stacked on pallets, out in the open.  The metal was made into TEL, a highly toxic organic lead compound readily soluble in gasoline.  At least into the 1980s, reports circulated of site workers getting acute lead poisoning.

In the 1920s the hazards of leaded paint and leaded fuels were documented and investigated.  Yet, in 2019 the struggle continues to get rid of both of these.  Leaded gasoline is still used in airplanes and children living near airports are exposed.  For morbid details you could read “Costs of IQ Loss from Leaded Aviation Gasoline Emissions“.  US emissions of lead from airplanes are around one million pounds per year, but the EPA has failed to act in spite of years of prodding and litigation.

Most people will have heard of the public health disaster in Flint, MI, caused by lead in the drinking water.

“On April 25, 2014, the City of Flint, Michigan changed their municipal water supply source from the Detroit-supplied Lake Huron water to the Flint River. The switch caused water distribution pipes to corrode and leach lead and other contaminants into municipal drinking water. In October 2016, Flint residents were advised not to drink the municipal tap water unless it had been filtered through a NSF International approved filter certified to remove lead. Although the city reconnected to the original Detroit water system that same month, the potential damage was already done and a state of emergency was declared on January 16, 2016.”   (National Center for Environmental Health ) Note that it took two and one-half years before residents were “advised not to drink the municipal tap water….

We could go on and on with examples, but the point is that sources of lead exposure are many and varied, and sometimes not obvious, so children can only be effectively protected by early and regular testing.

If Delaware public health officials and medical care providers were truly on the job, HB 166 might not be necessary, but they aren’t–reports suggest than many kids never get tested–and their poor response to the bill suggests they aren’t likely to clean up their act voluntarily.

Synopsis of HB 166:

“At this time, blood lead level screening and testing rates are well below what the Division of Public Health would expect them to be based upon the risk factors that determine when screening or testing is necessary. This bill simplifies the requirements and the process for healthcare providers and eliminates confusion that may be causing the low compliance rate for screening or testing, and defines terms used in the Act. This bill mandates screening, defined as capillary blood test, at 12 and 24 months of age. The bill clarifies insurance coverage for the costs of compliance with the Act. The Division of Public Health is also directed to report on elevated blood lead levels to the General Assembly annually and to develop regulations to implement and enforce the Act within 12 months of being enacted.” HB 166 has quite a few sponsors and co-sponsors, The prime sponsor, to his credit, is Rep. Sean Matthews, a teacher in Brandywine School District.

A timely article appeared in the Guardian this morning:

Poisoned by their homes: how the US is failing children exposed to lead

Hundreds of thousands of children in the US remain at risk of exposure to lead, which causes cognitive and behavioral deficits

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