Increase in lead poisoning cases expected by Tippecanoe Co. health department.


LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Once an Indiana law takes effect this summer, a new position within the Tippecanoe County Health Department will deal with what could be a 400% increase in lead poisoning cases.

Earlier this year, Governor Eric Holcomb signed into law Bill 1313, effective July 1, which seeks to bring state standards for children’s blood lead levels closer to American Academy of Pediatrics standards and would require health care providers to screen every child under age 6 for lead.

In preparation, the Tippecanoe County Health Department has asked county commissioners to approve a state-funded position within the Tippecanoe County Health Department – ​​the Community Health Case Manager.

The position will be responsible for managing departmental cases related to lead, fetal infant death and communicable diseases.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that if a child is found to have a blood lead concentration above 5 micrograms per deciliter (μg/dL), pediatricians and primary care providers should work with their federal, state and local governments to ensure a comprehensive analysis. environmental inspection is carried out in children’s housing units.

Prior to the new law, Indiana’s standard was 10 μg/dL, which was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standard from 1991 to 2012. In 2012, the CDC adopted 5 μg/dL as the upper range for levels acceptable blood lead levels, although the CDC does not believe there is a safe blood lead level.

The county health department expects to see an increase of about 200 to 400 percent in lead poisoning cases among children in the coming year, said Amanda Balser, executive assistant at the department. of Tippecanoe County Health.

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A new Indiana state law that takes effect in July will require health care providers to test children under age 6 for lead.  In this photo from the South Bend Tribune, children may be exposed to deteriorating lead paint in older homes.

“Indiana is adopting what the CDC has had in place for a while. They’re investigating cases now at 5 instead of 10, so it’s going to increase the number of cases by 200 to 400 percent for us. So , we had to add another position for that, because we are already running on an empty boat. We have to add in this boat as things go,” Balser said.

“Whenever there is legislation that brings changes and causes more work, we have to jump on it and add a new position to cope with the workload.”

With the new standard, the health department wants to address all lead-related cases whenever a case is discovered. Lead is a neurotoxin which, when exposed to young children, can cause significant health problems.

“Lead exposure can cause serious harm to a child’s health, including brain and nervous system damage, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems, hearing and speech,” the CDC’s website said.

“Protecting children from lead exposure is important for good health throughout life. No safe blood lead levels in children have been identified. Even low blood lead levels have been shown to negatively affect a child’s intelligence, attention span, and academic achievement,” the CDC’s website said.

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A new Indiana state law that takes effect in July will require health care providers to test children under age 6 for lead.  In this file photo from the South Bend Tribune, peeling lead paint surrounds a window of a South Bend home.

Another caveat to the new law is its expansion on who should be tested for lead poisoning.

Before the law, Indiana required children covered by Medicaid to be screened for lead poisoning, but as of July 1, all health care providers are required to screen every child under age 6 for lead.

Funding for Community Health Case Manager

In anticipation of increased testing in Indiana, the state offered counties funding to create a new position to handle any new cases and investigations.

The state has offered Tippecanoe County $88,000 to fund this new position for the next two years.

Commissioners have expressed concern that the amount is not sufficient to fully fund the position.

Health department chiefs said the current funding would be a good start for the first two years and advised commissioners that additional funding may be reimbursed if the case manager assists neighboring counties.

“So right now we will get about $88,000 at the most; however, there are smaller counties that will not be able to do their own survey. And if our person has the time, they’ll probably get some of these little county cases, for which we would be reimbursed. It won’t fully fund the position, but it will give him a good start for the first two years,” Balser said at the recent meeting.

“We have an environmentalist who decided to step in and take the courses to be able to do these assessments. So she will go to school and we will have a plumb machine to test her at home. We will test individuals and homes, then work with parents and any child care centers we need to get these cases taken care of.

Noe Padilla is a journalist at Journal & Courier. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at 1NoePadilla.


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