Getting your child screened for lead could be as easy as taking them to the doctor if a state House bill becomes law. It’s something public health advocates have been pushing for for years.
Kids with lead poisoning can have trouble learning, behavioral issues and poor kidney function. Right now, Indiana only requires children covered by Medicaid to be screened for lead — and according to state health officials less than half of them are actually getting screened.
The bill HB 1313 would require health care providers to screen every child under 6 for lead. Garry Holland is the education chair for the Indianapolis NAACP. He said he hopes this is a sign that lawmakers are paying more attention to how lead can damage a child’s brain.
“And when that child doesn’t have a chance to have a healthy start with living and academics," he said.
Holland said more research is coming out about the effects of long-term lead exposure on older adults as well. Last year, the University of California, Los Angeles released a study linking lead exposure to Parkinson’s disease.
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Dr. Richard Feldman is the legislative chair for the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians. He said the organization doesn’t usually think universal screening is necessary, but it’s justified in this case.
"There is a lack of data in Indiana and a poor understanding of really what the extent of the lead toxicity in children problem is in Indiana," Feldman said.
Feldman said the three-year screening program will help the state to better identify who is most affected by lead and where. Kids who live in homes built before 1980 and who use private drinking water wells are more likely to get exposed to lead.
State health officials said lead screening should be covered by most private insurance providers as well as Medicaid.
The bill passed out of committee on Wednesday. Rep. Carolyn Jackson (D-Hammond) has also introduced a bill, HB 1378, to test for lead in the drinking water in preschools and day care centers.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.