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Measures to prevent lead poisoning in King County


Metropolitan King County
Council News

Measures to prevent lead poisoning in King County


Council adopts motion calling for steps to protect public


Exposure to lead, especially for young children and infants, continues to be a significant health concern. The Metropolitan King County Council today gave its unanimous support to a King County Board of Health resolution calling for steps to prevent lead poisoning, which is known to have health effects, including decreased physical growth, learning disabilities, decreased IQ, and behavioral problems.

“The risks of lead exposure and poisoning – especially in children - are very real here in King County and in Washington State as a whole,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, a member of the King County Board of Health. “Public Health of Seattle and King County estimates that more than eight thousand children in King County may have elevated blood lead levels and the state Department of Health reports that only a fraction of children exposed to lead in King County and Washington state actually receive blood lead-level tests. We are encouraging all King County health care providers to screen all children at ages twelve and twenty-four months for lead levels.”

“I strongly support this effort to address environmental health hazards for children in King County,” said Council Vice Chair Rod Dembowski, who also chairs the Board of Health. “Preventing lead exposure is critical to childhood development and is consistent with our goals on the Board of Health.”

Lead exposure is a danger to children because growing bodies absorb proportionally more lead than adults. Incidents in Issaquah and Tacoma, along with the national impact of the heavy lead exposure in Flint, Michigan, have increased awareness of the continuing issue of lead exposure, which led the King County Board of Health to issue a call for measures to reduce potential exposure to lead.

“Lead poisoning can have very long-term detrimental medical impacts on children’s lives. Therefore, I’m glad that we are being proactive about this issue,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, vice chair of the Board of Health. “Parents need to know how dangerous lead can be and be conscious to exercising safety and caution with all products that may contain lead.”

“It is not right that childhood lead exposure often occurs at home, where kids should feel the safest and most protected, or that working people should have to trade their health for a paycheck,” said Council Chair Joe McDermott. “A robust approach that coordinates robust local, state, and federal efforts will be necessary to addressing this harm.”

“One of King County’s most important jobs is to keep people safe,” said Council Vice Chair Reagan Dunn. “I am happy to support this legislation that not only directly works to protect our kids now but also addresses improvements to diagnostics that will help prevent future lead poisonings.”

The adopted motion supports measures approved by the Board of Health. Those steps include:

• Calling on federal and state lawmakers to take meaningful action to address lead poisoning;
• Encouraging and exploring requiring all King County health care providers to adopt Washington State Department of Health guidance for lead screening of all children at ages twelve and twenty-four months; and
• Encouraging Washington state to update the occupational safety standards for lead in Washington state to provide greater protection for workers and their families.
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