Leading Education & Awareness on Lead in Greater Nashua
All children are at risk for lead poisoning.
Every child should be tested at one and two years of age. Children aged three to six who have not previously been tested should also have the test. The Greater Nashua Leading Education and Awareness on Lead (L.E.A.D.) initiative is working to increase blood lead level testing for children under six years of age in the Greater Nashua Public Health Region (GNPHR) through educational opportunities and educational materials for health care providers, child care providers, and the general public.
What is Lead Poisoning?
Lead is a highly toxic. Lead poisoning occurs when too much lead gets into the body through the skin, breathing, eating, or drinking, and builds up, usually over a course of months or years. High levels of lead in the body can harm the brain, damage speech and hearing, and result in learning and behavior problems. Children aged six and younger are at highest risk for lead poisoning because they can absorb lead more easily than older kids and adults, and lead is more harmful to them.
Greater Nashua is at High Risk for Lead Poisoning
Children in our region are at particular risk, since the most common source of childhood lead poisoning is lead paint in older homes, and over 50% of the homes in the GNPHR were built before lead paint was banned in 1978. As these houses age, lead paint cracks and chips, resulting in dangerous lead chips and dust, which can be poisonous to anybody, especially children. Although lead paint and dust are the most hazardous sources of lead for children, lead can be found in many sources including work clothes, tap water, toys, and spices.
In 2015, NH Healthy Homes Lead Poisoning Prevention Program found that within the GNPHR;
- More than 52% of the Greater Nashua housing stock was built before 1978, when the use of lead paint was banned
- More than 27% of the housing stock in the City of Nashua was built before 1950
- In 2015, only 19% of children five years of age and younger living in the City of Nashua were tested for blood lead
- 5% of the population tested had elevated blood lead levels
NH has seen above average rates of blood lead levels in children, partially due to older homes which still contain lead paint. NH has also seen low blood lead level testing rates for children. Our goal is to the change that.
Lead & COVID-19
As we continue to follow public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, families are spending more time in their homes. The Nashua Division of Public Health and Community Services (DPHCS) would like to remind our community that children in the GNPHR may be at higher risk for lead poisoning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Why you might ask? This is because over 50% of homes in Greater Nashua were built before 1978, the year that lead paint was banned. Lead paint can chip and form into dust, spreading throughout your home environment and causing a hazard to children.
Learn how to protect your child from lead with these simple steps:
- Keep children away from lead paint and dust
- Use a HEPA vacuum and disposable rags to clean any lead dust
- Wash hands, toys, and pacifiers often
- Avoid imported foods and candies
- Avoid allowing children to chew on metal charms, keys, and jewelry
How Can I Protect My Family?
The only way to know if a child has lead poisoning is by getting a blood test to check their blood lead level. A blood lead test is simple, quick, and covered by all insurance companies, and Medicaid. Ask your child’s health care provider to perform a blood lead test for any child aged one or two years old, and for children aged three to six years old who have not previously been tested or are at elevated risk. Don’t have insurance? Contact us to find a testing location near you.
It’s New Hampshire Law (NH SB247)
As of April 2018, NH became a universal testing state, requiring that all health care providers conduct blood lead level tests for all one and two year olds. This law requires property investigation and case management by the NH Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for blood lead level (BLL) test results that are over the actionable BLL. The current actionable BLL is 7.5 mcg/dL, and on July 1, 2021, it will be lowered to 5 mcg/dL. If a child’s BLL is over 7.5 mcg/dl, DHHS will perform a home inspection to identify lead hazards, and the child will enter lead case management, including a home visit by a public health nurse. As these new regulations are implemented, it is important to provide education and awareness to pediatric health care providers, child care providers, and the community about the changes in requirements for blood lead testing in children, as well as the effects of lead exposure. Fore more information about the law, read the NH SB247.
What We Do
We all play a critical role in the early detection and prevention of childhood lead poisoning. L.E.A.D. Greater Nashua is working towards its goal of increasing blood lead testing in all children under six years of age in the GNPHR by providing all regional pediatric health care providers and child care providers with a toolkit containing the tools needed to increase BLL testing in children. These toolkits contain information and resources such as a lead testing quick guide, tips on how to talk to parents about getting their child tested for lead, lead fact sheets, and more. Although these toolkits are being distributed to providers in the GNPHR, this information is available for all providers to access.
L.E.A.D. Greater Nashua is also collaborating with the City of Nashua Community Health Department to provide further education and resources to a network of health care providers at scheduled quarterly lunch and learns.
L.E.A.D. Greater Nashua continues to conduct community outreach in the GNPHR through advertising, events, cross-promotion, and media relations/social media.
What You Can Do
Spread the Word
- Test your kids for lead!
- Share this information with people you know, including friends, parents, coworkers, parents, or anyone else because anyone can be affected by childhood lead poisoning.
- Educate others that NH State Law requires all children to be tested for lead poisoning at ages 1 and 2.
- Encourage parents to talk to their health care provider about getting their children tested for lead.
Join the Maternal and Child Health Workgroup
This effort to reduce the number of children in the GNPHR under the age of six years old with high blood lead levels is a primary goal related to the Maternal and Child Health priority area in the 2018-2021 Greater Nashua Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). The Maternal and Child Health Workgroup aims to increase education and awareness of resources for maternal and child physical and behavioral health in the GNPHR. This aligns with the goal of L.E.A.D. Greater Nashua, to increase education and awareness of lead testing and resources related to lead, including those provided in provider toolkits, on marketing materials, and provided here on the website. If you are interested in being a part of making change in your community by working together to improve the health of children, sign up here today!