Expand Child Lead Testing

October 1, 2021

Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing (CLASH) urges Cleveland City Council to use funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to make it easier for at risk families to have their children tested for lead poisoning.

ARP funds should be used to provide on-site testing for elevated blood lead levels at Cleveland’s two neighborhood clinics at McCafferty Health Center on the Near West Side and at J.Glenn Smith Center in Glenville.

We further advocate for the use of ARP funds to equip a mobile testing lab that can conduct child lead tests at child care and child-serving organizations around the city at non-traditional locations.

The current situation requires overburdened moms to get a referral to a remote testing lab. That means taking another day off work and paying for transportation to an unfamiliar facility. Providing testing services within easy reach will increase the dismal rate of child testing in Cleveland.

The Ohio Department of Health requires children in high risk zip codes to have their children tested for elevated blood lead levels at ages 1 and 2. The reality is that the COVID pandemic has resulted in dramatically lower rates of testing in Cleveland and around the country. This is exactly the kind of problem that American Rescue Program funds were designed to address.

Earlier this year, Senators Brown and Portman introduced legislation to expand child lead testing under Medicaid. By appropriating local ARP funds to this issue now, Cleveland can cut through the log jam in Congress and bring help to children and their families right now.

Early diagnosis of elevated blood lead in children is a critical first step in finding ways to eliminate exposure to lead and mitigate the medical and behavioral deficits that children experience when exposed to lead from deteriorated paint surfaces or bare soil.

A report published this week in the Journal of American Medical Association shows that Ohio is second in the nation for childhood lead poisoning with a 5.2% rate of children with elevated blood lead levels that is nearly three times the national average for children with elevated blood levels.

footnote: CLASH’s proposal to use ARP funds for a mobile lead testing van could learn from a similar program in use in Detroit.