Public Health

Posted on: October 25, 2017

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is October 22-28, 2017

lead out image

To increase awareness of childhood lead poisoning prevention, the City of Portland Public Health Division, along with the state and federal CDC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is participating in National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW) October 22-28. Materials are available in the rotunda of City Hall.


Nearly half a million children living in the United States have elevated blood lead levels that may cause significant damage to their health, estimates the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The estimate is based on children with a blood lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter or higher, using data from national surveys conducted in 2007-2008 and 2009-2010. Major sources of lead exposure to U.S. children include lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in deteriorating buildings. Children can also be exposed to lead from additional sources including contaminated drinking water, take-home exposures from a workplace, like boatbuilding, and lead in soil.  


Despite the continued presence of lead in the environment, lead poisoning is entirely preventable. According to the most recent data (Maine CDC, 2017) Portland’s rates for elevated blood lead levels in children age 0 to 36 months are nearly twice that of the state average (5.4% vs 2.9% respectively). In addition, screening rates in Portland for lead poisoning in children were three points lower than the state wide average (25.5% vs 28.4% respectively).


Parents can reduce a child’s exposure to lead in many ways. Here are some simple things you can do to help protect your family:

  1. Get Your Home Tested.  Before you buy an older home, ask for a lead inspection. Or visit http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/environmental-health/eohp/lead/lead-kit-request.html to order a kit for your home.
  1. Get Your Child Tested.  Even if your young children seem healthy, ask your doctor to test them for lead.  
  1. Understand the Facts! For more information please contact the City of Portland’s Community Health Promotion Specialist, Karlene Hafemann, at 207-756-8116 or khafemann@portlandmaine.org.


Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Maine Environment Public Health Tracking Program. (2017).

Lead Poisoning Data. Retrieved from https://data.mainepublichealth.gov/tracking/home.


A University of Maine economist estimated that the total expected earnings for Maine children born in the year 2003 would be $240 million less throughout their lifetimes as a result of the effects of lead on their intellectual function. 


Here in Portland,  5% of children under six have high blood lead levels but only 25 %of children are tested. The State of Maine new lead law gives the Maine CDC the authority to conduct a lead inspection when lead hazards are suspected in a rental unit. If lead hazards are found, the CDC will issue an order to abate and no vacant units can be re-rented until the abatement order is cleared. This requires a licensed lead abatement contractor to perform the work and the State to officially clear the project. There can be long waits and thousands in lost rent and fines.


So what can you do to prevent lead poisoning?

1.        Find It

 Hire a licensed lead inspector to assess your property when investing in an older rental property and perform maintenance and renovation according to the risk assessment provided.  


2.         Fund It

It is much cheaper to remove or repair windows, doors and deteriorating paint BEFORE a child is poisoned.


The City of Portland has funding to help eligible property owners in Cumberland County find and fix lead hazards in homes with young children and medium to low income residents. We have HUD funds for 50 more units in Cumberland County.


Find information on our program  and the application process  on our website here.


3.        Fix It

If you live in a home built before 1978 and you have not had lead paint hazards identified than it is safe to assume any renovations could create lead dust. Be very careful of sanding, cutting, replacing windows, etc. Only use renovators and contractors with an RRP certification. Search for certified contractors on the EPA website. Take an RRP class yourself if own an investment building and ask tenants to report chipping paint immediately. 

Lead Safe Housing
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