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Allegheny

Allegheny County expands home inspections to cover kids with 'elevated' lead levels

Theresa Clift
| Tuesday, June 12, 2018, 1:10 p.m.
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The Allegheny County Health Department announced Tuesday it will expand in-home visits to investigate sources of lead contamination that could be causing “elevated” lead levels among children who undergo a blood test to detect the neurotoxin.

Since November 2016, the department has offered in-home investigations when a blood test determines a child younger than 6 has a lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter or higher.

That threshold left out the roughly 800 young children in Allegheny County who had a lead level of 5 mcg/dL to 9 mcg/dL in their blood, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers to be “elevated,” the Trib reported in March 2017.

During the investigations, inspectors visit the home of the child to try to find the source of the lead by testing paint, water and soil that might be contaminated near the home.

The inspection is free, and income level does not affect eligibility. The results of the inspection can help determine how to eliminate the source of the lead.

The department recently hired two senior sanitarians, which made the in-home service expansion possible, according to a news release from the department.

The sanitarians are the first of their kind for the department, said Ryan Scarpino, department spokesman. They will perform lead investigations, review and approve plans for permitted facilities, train new environmental health specialists, and perform indoor air quality investigations, Scarpino said.

“We understand how concerning this can be for families, and we want to respond appropriately,” Health Department Director Dr. Karen Hacker said in the release. “This was also an important recommendation that was made in the recent Allegheny County Lead Task Force report.”

The nine-member task force began meeting in May 2017 and released its recommendations in December .

About 89 percent of houses in Allegheny County were built before 1978, the year lead paint was banned. Drinking water in the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority's system has exceeded a federal lead content threshold since the summer of 2016.

A county ordinance requiring all children to undergo blood lead testing at ages 1 and 2 went into effect Jan. 1.

For more information on the home inspections, parents can call the department's Housing and Community Environment program at 412-350-4046.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5669, tclift@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tclift.

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