HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Governor Tom Wolf is proposing that all Pennsylvania children under the age two get tested for lead poisoning.
On Wednesday, Wolf called on the Department of Health to work with lawmakers and community partners to draft legislation requiring mandatory testing in Pennsylvania.
“Pennsylvania is third in the nation in terms of older houses,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, Acting Secretary of Health and Physician General. “So that raises particular issues for families in Pennsylvania and why we’re calling for universal testing.”
Lead-based paint and plumbing, often found in homes built before 1950, is a significant source of lead exposure in young children.
The Department of Health’s latest report on lead shows that only 28 percent of children under the age of two were tested for lead in 2015.
“Universal testing will address the gaps in childhood lead testing data,” said Dr. Levine.
“Even though our definition for a concerning level of lead is five or greater, we don’t know the effects of lead at even lower levels.” said Cynthia A. Elsner, Chairman of Pediatrics at Pinnacle Health.”There’s really no safe level of lead.”
Children exposed to lead at high levels are at risk of having serious and sometimes permanent learning and behavior problems.
Wolf wants the state to determine who is as risk for lead poisoning and where children with the highest and lowest blood levels live.
“We need to able to identify all children who have elevated blood-lead levels in order to make sure their families have to the services they need,” said Wolf.
“What the evidence shows is that we really don’t have an understanding of the total scope of the potential burden of lead poisoning for children,” said Dr. Levine.
Currently, children who have Medicaid or CHIP are tested, but children who have private insurances may not be.
Dr. Levine says under the Affordable Care Act, all commercial insurance companies are required to offer the test at no out-of-pocket costs for families.
Families with questions should call 1-800-440-LEAD to speak to a nurse.