UPDATE, 3:50 p.m.:
The Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services got back to the Outpost with the following information:
The Humboldt County Department of Health & Human Services closely tracks blood lead screening data for Humboldt County kids. Our public health nursing staff investigates every confirmed case of elevated blood lead level in children. Nearly every case we’ve seen involves lead-based paint in the child’s home.
The most important thing that parents can do is to make sure that their children are screened for lead exposure beginning at age one, because that’s when children start exploring. Early testing helps parents find and fix problems as early as possible.
Families who live in older homes should be especially aware of any areas of peeling or worn paint. House dust – particularly around windows, floors, and doors – can be very high in lead. Frequent wet-wiping of floors and windowsills helps keep kids lead-safe.
Meanwhile, Kristin Kovacs, program manager at Redwood Community Action Agency’s energy and environmental services division, tells the Outpost that RCAA has a lead hazard control program available for low-to-moderate income families with children under six or pregnant women.
“We do have a lot of really old homes in the area with lead-based paint,” Kovacs said.
The program, which is available to both renters and homeowners, helps to abate lead present in homes. To find out if you qualify, or to get more information, call (707) 444-3831, extension 207.
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Eureka is among dozens of California communities with elevated rates of childhood lead poisoning, according to blood test data released to the Reuters news organization.
Almost 11 percent of blood tests on Eureka kids under six years old came back with elevated lead levels, according to data released by the California Department of Public Health. That’s more than double the rate seen in Flint, Michigan, during the recent water crisis.
Such elevated lead levels can lead to serious health problems including developmental delays, learning difficulties, seizures, vomiting and more. The test results don’t identify the sources of poisoning, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lead can be found in old paint, gasoline, toys, contaminated soil and water and other sources.
Eureka might not be the only local community with elevated lead poisoning rates. From Reuters:
Unlike other states that provided Reuters with results for all zip codes or census tracts, California withheld data from zip codes where fewer than 250 children were screened, calling such results less reliable. So, the available data – encompassing about 400,000 children tested in 546 zip codes – likely omits many neighborhoods where lead exposure remains a problem but fewer children were screened.
The results, which come from testing done back in 2012, only include results from about a quarter of the state’s 2,000-plus zip codes.
California’s Public Health Department notes that they test only at-risk kids, which could skew the results upward, though Reuters points out that such targeted testing is common across the country.
The Mayo Clinic offers a list of prevention measures to reduce your family’s exposure to lead. Suggestions include cleanliness (hands, toys, your home), healthful eating and, if you have old pipes, running cold water for at least a minute before using any.
The Outpost reached out to the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services and the Redwood Community Action Agency for comment. We’ll update this post if and when we hear back.