Young children are still greatly at risk for lead poisoning in Missouri.
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Young children are still greatly at risk for lead poisoning in Missouri.

Date: May 10, 2012
By: Ashley Hartman
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB1814

Children remain at risk for lead poisoning and Missouri is taking action.
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Wrap: Young children are still at risk for lead poisoning from older buildings and lack of proper testing. 

Medical Toxicologist Doctor Jennifer Lowry says many children are asymptomatic or show symptoms that are simply overlooked. 

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Description: "They are just, you know, your normal two year who puts things in their mouth and acting just fine, and that's why it's important that we catch it early because you're not going to start to see some of the subtle, kinda neurologic or ADHD symptoms until later."

Triangle Environmental Risk Assessor John Cable says children under six are the most susceptible to lead contamination.   

He says any surface that a child could come into contact with such as a carpet, door jam, or windowsill has a potential for lead dust.    

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Description: "Kids play in the soil, hand to mouth contact, you can have elevated blood levels due to just the kids playing out in the soil."

If ingested or consumed, lead poisoning can take decades to leave the body.

Lead ingestion more than once can cause severe health problems ranging from neurological disorders, seizures, or even death.   

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Description: "What happens is lead is actually stored in the bone and it'll build up."

When physicians are seeing these elevated blood lead levels, often there is an ignorance of how to proceed. 

Lowry and other members of Pediatric Environmental are working together to prevent lead poisoning and how to properly treat it. 

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Description: "One of my goals is to increase education to physicians on why it is still important to test for lead."

St. Louis County Republican Representative Dwight Scharnhorst says Missouri's lead problem is still prevalent all around Missouri, specifically in intercity areas.

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Description: "We have competent professionals in every portion of this. What we're doing right now is I think we've got some people that might be well intentioned, but are being even overly restrictive to the removal of it."

Dr. Lowry says medical schools and hospitals have neglected an entire generation of physicians in teaching them about heavy metal poisoning, especially with lead.  

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Description: "I get a number of calls from physicians who get those lead levels from the twenties and the thirties and they’re kind of freaking out because they don’t know what to do with them and because they haven’t seen those before."

She says about a third of the state population is required to get universal testing, but unfortunately that doesn't actually happen.

In 2011, eighty percent of the population of children under three years of age who should have been tested were not. 

Reporting from the state Capitol, I'm Ashley Hartman.