Senate Bill 775: Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act
Lead poisoning is one of the most common environmental health hazards for children in the United States today, with more than 640,000 children at high-risk for exposure in California alone. As a neuro-toxin, the health impacts of even low-level exposure include development of learning disabilities, damage to the kidneys and central nervous system, underdevelopment, and at very high levels, seizures, coma and death. “A growing body of research has shown that there are measurable adverse neurological effects in children at blood lead concentrations as low as 1 microg/dL. [The CDC] and EPA believe that effects may occur at blood lead levels so low that there is essentially no “safe” level of lead.”
To address this public health crisis, PSR-LA has joined with the National Health Law Program and the Women’s Policy Institute in drafting Senate Bill 775, which proposes to increase screening of California children under age six for risk of lead poisoning through the use of the immunization registry. This bill, authored by Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas, intends to increase the number of blood lead tests performed on children who are at risk of lead poisoning as determined by the screening process and enable children with elevated blood lead levels to receive appropriate treatment and environmental intervention.
Despite longstanding, federally funded requirements for blood lead tests for children enrolled in Medi-Cal and the Child Health and Disability Prevention Program, only 1 in 5 of these children have been tested for lead poisoning at age-appropriate intervals. With no safe threshold, blood lead testing is the only effective way to detect lead poisoning before severe and often irreversible damage occurs.
Additionally, although blood lead tests for children are covered by private health care providers, a vast majority of insured children are not screened for lead poisoning. As a result, many children with potentially elevated blood lead levels are not identified and therefore do not receive appropriate treatment.
Following a handful of states—Michigan, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Ohio and Wisconsin, all of which have universal screening, the passage of SB 775 would increase both screening and awareness about lead poisoning and would curb the irreversible effects of lead exposure in California’s children.
As part of the efforts of raising awareness about this health issue, SB 775 would also ensure that health care providers give informational materials about lead hazards, lead poisoning prevention and lead-safe work practices to families and pregnant women.
PSR-LA believes that physicians can and must play a key role in meeting the U.S. Surgeon General’s goal of eliminating childhood lead poisoning by 2010. Passage of SB 775 bill requires broad-based support from doctors and health professionals who can attest to the urgency of this public health crisis.