Report: Pa. kids show elevated blood lead levels at more than 2X national rate | Wednesday Coffee

Pa. is one of six states, including Ohio, where kids have dangerously elevated lead levels in their blood

September 29, 2021 7:21 am

Percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels. Analysis limited to states and the District of Columbia with results for more than 500 children. (Source: JAMA Pediatrics/The Ohio Capital Journal)

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

An alarming 5 percent of Pennsylvania children have elevated levels of lead in their blood at more than two times the national rate, a newly released study has found.

The research, from JAMA Pediatrics, a peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association, puts Pennsylvania in the company of just six states nationwide with such dangerously high blood levels, according to the Ohio Capital Journal, a sibling site of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, which published the results on Tuesday.

About 5.2 percent of children in the Buckeye State have similarly elevated blood levels, the Capital Journal reported. The other states are: Nebraska (6%), Missouri (4.5%), Michigan (4.5%) and Wisconsin (4.3%).

Lead is a neurotoxin linked to developmental, mental, and physical impairment, and young children are especially vulnerable. There’s no safe level of exposure for children, though their blood is considered elevated when it contains 5 micrograms per deciliter, the Capital-Journal reported.

The study is based on roughly 1.1 million tests conducted by Quest Diagnostics between October 2018 and February 2020.

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In Pennsylvania, nearly 9,000 children suffer from lead poisoning each year, according to research released in May by the Council for a Strong America. The main source of exposure comes from lead-based paint, which was not banned for residential use until 1978.

Pennsylvania has the fifth-oldest housing stock in the country, with 70 percent of the state’s residential units having been built before 1980, the council’s research indicated. The council’s report includes county-by-county fact sheets detailing lead exposure statewide.

Based on 2019 data, Pennsylvania had the second-highest number of children in the nation who tested positive for lead poisoning, the council’s report found. And of the 10 states with the highest rates of lead poisoning, the Keystone State was the second-worst at testing, the research further concluded.

“In 2017, less than a third of the 300,000 children under two years old were tested for lead poisoning. For children under the age of six, testing rates were even lower, at approximately 19 percent,” the council’s report found.

“In 2019, the Pennsylvania Department of Health tested over 176,000 children between the ages of 0 and 5 for lead exposure,” it concluded. “Approximately 6,400 of those tested had blood levels over five micrograms per deciliter. Among those tested, Black and Hispanic children had higher percentages of elevated blood lead levels than White children.”

The new JAMA research reached a similar conclusion, finding that “children living at or below the poverty line in older housing or in communities with high concentrations of poverty are at the greatest risk of the toxic effects of lead.”

The JAMA report also found that children with public health insurance like Medicaid were nearly twice as likely to have detectable blood lead levels as children with private health insurance, the Capital-Journal reported.

In July, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration announced the state would spend $97 million on clean water infrastructure in 19 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

“Historic investments in clean water infrastructure like the ones made today continue to underscore our commitment to safe and reliable infrastructure for our communities,” Wolf said in a statement at the time. “Clean, lead-free drinking water and reliable wastewater and stormwater systems are the bedrock of vibrant civic centers and are essential to ushering in much-needed growth across the Commonwealth.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.

Republican state lawmakers are looking for ways around Pennsylvania’s K-12 mask mandate, including a bill whose prime sponsor is using a discredited German study to undermine the order and skirt questioning, Marley Parish reports.

With a Tuesday vote, the Pennsylvania House Education Committee quietly inserted state lawmakers into the national debate over what students are taught in school about race and historyStephen Caruso reports.

Undeterred by previous efforts that have … forgive me … gone up in smoke, two western Pennsylvania state lawmakers have introduced a bill to legalize recreational cannabis in the commonwealth, Cassie Miller reports.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 5,429 new cases  of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the statewide total to 1.42 million since the start of the pandemic, I report.

Philadelphia schools Superintendent William Hite says he’s leaving his job when his contract expires at the end of the current school year, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

The Wolf administration has announced it’s doling out $655 million in aid to child care providers across the state, our newest news partners at City & State Pa. report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Ray E. Landis, a Central York High School graduate, is embarrassed by the banned books controversy that landed his alma mater in the national spotlight. And Philadelphia Tribune columnist Michael Coard observes the 170th anniversary of a daring rescue attempt by Black and white abolitionists in New York that resulted in an escaped enslaved person fleeing to freedom in Canada.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: A pro-Trump mob breaks into the U.S. Capitol on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

A Bucks County woman who said she wanted to shoot U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.has pleaded guilty to Capitol riot charges, the Inquirer reports.

Pittsburgh’s jobless rate remained above 6 percent in August, the Post-Gazette reports.

A Pennsylvania man fired for using medical marijuana claims his dismissal violated the Americans with Disabilities ActPennLive reports.

A Republican-controlled state Senate panel has advanced a bill that would increase the number of poll watchers that political candidates can use, and allow them to come from anywhere in the state, the Morning Call reports.

Adolescent COVID-19 vaccinations lag the rest of the state’s population, the Citizens’ Voice reports (paywall).

In what appears to be the first case of its kind for the hospital, Mount Nittany Medical Center is treating an 11-year-old for COVID-19StateImpact Pennsylvania reports.

An underground electrical fire cut off power to downtown ErieGoErie reports.

USA Today’s Pennsylvania Capital Bureau runs down Sen. Doug Mastriano’s, R-Franklinspat with his fellow Republicans.

Some small towns are rejecting COVID relief funds — explains why.

A bill raising the federal debt ceiling has again stalled in the U.S. Senate amid Republican resistance, Roll Call reports.

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
The House comes in at 11 am.. The Senate gavels in at 1 p.m.
 9 a.m., 140 Main Capitol: House Liquor Control and Senate Law & Justice committees meet in joint session.
9 a.m., 515 Irvis: Local Government Commission
9:30 am., 8E-B East Wing: Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee
 10 a.m., Capitol Steps: Suicide Prevention Day event
10 a.m., B31 Main Capitol: House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee
10 a.m., 523 Irvis: House Local Government Committee
10 a.m., 8B-E, East Wing: Senate Communications & Technology Committee
10:30 a.m., 461 Main Capitol: Senate Consumer Protection & Consumer Licensure Committee
Call of the Chair, 140 MC: House Appropriations Committee
Call of the Chair, Senate Chamber: Senate Appropriations Committee
1 p.m., Capitol Steps: ‘Justice for Cameron’ event

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
7:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Greg Rothman
8 am.: Breakfast for Rep. Rich Irvin
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (*corrected)
8 a.m.: Breakfast for U.S. Senate candidate Sean Parnell
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Andrew Lewis
5 p.m.: Reception forRep. Martina White
Ride the circuit, and give at the max today, and you’re out a pretty awful $22,500.

Gov. Tom Wolf makes a pair of stops in southeastern Pennsylvania today, visiting Norristown for a 12:30 p.m. newser, and Philadelphia for 3 p.m. ribbon-cutting.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept
Best wishes go out to veteran comms guy, Scott Hoeflich, and to Ashley Matthews, most recently of former state Treasurer Joe Torsella’s office. Congratulations and enjoy the day, folks.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s one from The Fratellis to get your Wednesday morning rolling. It’s ‘Need a Little Love.’

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
Paris St. Germain’s front line came away with a win on Tuesday, but can they sustain it over the entire Ligue 1 campaign? The Guardian takes up the question.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.