July 30, 2019
Jennifer Miller, 608-266-1683
Elizabeth Goodsitt, 608-266-1683

Governor Evers Takes Action to Prevent Lead Poisoning

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Monday signed Executive Order 36 which directs state agencies to act to prevent lead poisoning. In response, state health officials are marshaling resources and partnerships statewide to target child lead poisoning prevention, Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm announced today.

“Governor Evers is asking all of us to work together to protect children’s health and their potential to succeed by preventing child lead poisoning in Wisconsin,” said Secretary-Designee Palm. “This issue is affecting too many of our children, and we need to act now to make a difference today, and for future generations. We are urging providers and parents to make sure to test children for lead exposure.”

Executive Order 36 directs DHS to designate a person in the agency to coordinate the state’s efforts to address lead poisoning prevention, treatment, removal, abatement, and surveillance. Palm says the agency is in the process of finding a qualified candidate for that position.

According to Wisconsin Blood Lead Testing Data, 4,110 Wisconsin children under the age of 16 tested positive for lead poisoning in 2018. Children exposed to even moderate lead levels can face delays in growth, as well as serious behavior and learning challenges. Lead poisoning can adversely affect almost every organ and system in the human body, and can cause cognitive delays, behavior and learning problems, slowed growth, and, in severe cases, seizures, coma, and death.

The main cause of lead poisoning among children in our state is by swallowing the dust from lead paint, which is found most often in homes built before 1978. It is estimated that there are more than 350,000 older homes in Wisconsin with lead paint hazards. Exposure to lead-contaminated drinking water from lead service lines or lead in fixtures can also contribute to lead poisoning.

The only way to know if a child has been exposed to lead is to get a blood test for lead. Only 1 in 5 Wisconsin children under age 6 are tested each year. Children who live, or regularly spend time, in homes built before 1978 should be tested at age one and age two, or at least once between ages three through five if not previously tested.

Prevention is the most important step that parents can take. Lead sources can be removed from older homes by trained professionals, and funds may be available to help low to moderate income home owners hire certified contractors. To find out about drinking water and lead, homeowners can request a test kit or hire a plumbing professional.

The DHS website has extensive information about lead prevention efforts in Wisconsin.