Lead Issues in Ohio

For many reasons childhood lead poisoning is a forgotten epidemic that saps the potential for our future citizens. Lead never goes away. For children lead exposure is manifest as delayed physical development and neurological deficits. For school age children lead exposure is seen as slow learning and behavioral disabilities often labeled as ADHD or autism. As adolescents, childhood lead exposure is often manifest as excessive risk taking which results in encounters with police and other authorities. And adults, there are pretty well-established correlations between childhood exposure to lead and chronic illnesses including hypertension, dementia, and kidney failure. A recent study of childhood lead exposure by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that Ohio has over twice the national average of childhood lead exposure.

There are some steps that the next Governor and General Assembly can make to push the state in the direction of reducing lead hazards and remediate the impacts of lead exposure.

  1. ​Ohio Department of Health should adopt the CDC 3.5 ​reference ​standard​ and ​end the ​current ​State policy of ​a two phase approach to children with Elevated Blood Lead Levels (EBLL). The current two phase approach permits an "counseling" intervention for children with EBLLs below 5 micrograms/deciliter, instead of requiring a full Lead Risk assessment to identify and remove the sources of the lead poisoning. The CDC acknowledges "there is no safe level of exposure".

  • Early detection and intervention can improve the life chances for children exposed to lead.

  • ​Detection and remediation in rental properties will protect children who may subsequently occupy the poisoned house. (A typical parental reaction to an EBLL is to move).

  1. Testing and remediation ​at state licensed child care centers through J​obs and Family Services. Ohio should require Lead Risk Assessments (not just visual inspections) of paint, water and soil contamination and provide funding for Interim controls. ​

  2. All Ohio programs that touch young families should require ​participants (pregnant women and children) to show that they have met ODH standards for lead testing​. ​ ​Example: WIC program.

  3. Expanded Child testing program​ through Medicaid.​ ​Childhood lead testing in Ohio has dropped dramatically over the past three years. While OMS requires "All 12- and 24-month-old Medicaid-eligible children must have a blood lead screening test (regardless of ZIP code or exposure to lead)," they defer enforcement to ODH's more lax standard of testing only in high risk zip codes. To the best of our knowledge neither OMS or ODH make any effort to sanction health care providers who fail to comply with either testing standard.

  4. Ohio's ​Lead​ Abatement Tax Credit program rewards homeowners for not poisoning their own children. Since owners of rental properties don't pay income tax on rental income under $250,000, they have no incentive to make their properties lead safe or lead abated.​

  5. ​The Federal ​L​ead ​S​afe ​H​ousing for ​K​ids ​A​ct would require HUD assisted properties built before 1978 to conduct a lead risk assessment of any unit where a child under the age of 6 is living. Ohio should work with​​ Federal Elected officials to sponsor legislation in the House and Senate.​ Senator Portman is currently a cosponsor LSHKA​ in the Senate.