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Hogan announces plan to test all children for lead

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. (Christopher T. Assaf / Baltimore Sun)

Although it's not been a major issue in Carroll County in recent years, County Health Officer Ed Singer was pleased to hear Gov. Larry Hogan announced a new lead testing regimen on Monday. The plan calls for all Maryland children to be tested for exposure to the elemental metal at ages 1 and 2.

"I would assume that what the whole initiative is about is making sure that we catch perpetually elevated blood lead levels so we can interdict things and find the sources of the lead and … follow up and treat the child," Singer said, noting that he has not yet seen any details about the plan.

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Exposure to the element, which was once used as an additive in paint and gasoline, can cause, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection agency, behavior and learning problems, lowered IQ and hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems and anemia.

Hogan announced the plan Monday at the start of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, according to the Associated Press, and would be a shift from the past when only children living in areas considered at risk for lead poisoning were tested.

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"It's not as big a problem out here as it has to do with the age of the housing and upkeep and maintenance of housing," Singer said. "There are specific laws that have to do with rental properties and things like that, that have to do with homes built before 1978 and things of that nature."

But those laws do not always apply to owner-occupied dwellings, Singer said, and in recent years, many cases of lead poisoning have resulted from entirely different products instead of lead paint in people's homes.

"We've had it in pottery, in candy that has come out of Mexico. We've had lead hazards from [window] blinds and toys and things of that nature from overseas," he said. "We may have standards of how things are manufactured here in the U.S., but with stuff made elsewhere you end up with lead poisoning from things you may not expect."

Although he has not yet seen the details of the governor's plan, Singer said he believes it will likely take the form of children's primary care physicians handling the blood work for the tests.

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"The health department will probably be asked to reach out to help get this implemented, but we probably won't be doing the physical testing," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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