The state Department of Health has been awarded $361,956 in federal funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its childhood lead poisoning prevention program.
The funding will allow the Hawaii Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program’s efforts to reduce lead exposure and poisoning for children under the age of six. Young children are at the highest risk for lead exposure because they engage in more hand-to-mouth activity and their developing nervous systems are more susceptible to the effects of lead.
Nearly 60,000 children under the age of six in Hawaii were tested for lead from 2011 to 2015, according to department data — and 1,700 children, or about 3 percent, had elevated blood lead levels. Sources of lead exposure for children include paint in houses built before 1978, fishing sinkers, jewelry, toys and glazed pottery.
“Early screening and testing to identify and prevent lead exposure in young children helps ensure the healthy development of our keiki,” said Dr. Patricia Heu, chief of the department’s Children with Special Health Needs Branch. “This new funding will improve our processes to identify lead-exposed children and link their families with services to find and remove the source of lead. This will help to protect that child and other children in the family from further exposure.”