Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lead poisoning is declining in CT, but still disproportionately affects vulnerable communities

 Three-year-old Angely Nunez watches as Lauren Frazer, a nurse at Connecticut Children’s Primary Care Center in Hartford, applies a topical anesthetic to her arm before a blood draw to check for lead levels.
FILE: Tony Bacewicz
Lauren Frazer, a nurse at Connecticut Children’s Primary Care Center in Hartford, applies a topical anesthetic to the arm of Angely Nunez before a blood draw to check for lead levels.

Children in New Haven, Bridgeport, Waterbury, Hartford and Meriden made up 49% of elevated lead level cases between 2012 and 2020. And, although the numbers are generally improving, lead poisoning disproportionately hits children of color — affecting mental, behavioral and educational health.

“If you think about a preventable cause for those types of delays and problems, lead is such an important contributor,” said Manisha Juthani, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Health. “And, as we see, it affects those most vulnerable, our Black and brown communities and older housing stock in our inner cities. And so this is really also an issue of equity.”

Lawmakers passed and Gov. Ned Lamont signed into law new measures that take effect in 2023. Those include increasing testing requirements for primary care providers to add annual lead testing for certain children. It also lowers the threshold for blood lead levels that require state and local health officials to take immediate action.

These changes mandate reporting to the Department of Public Health within 24 hours.

“The trigger for it to be within a day needing to be reported is important, because [it] then gives the capability to the state to work and inform local health departments, who, then, would get these reports and be able to start the whole process of abatement that would eventually need to occur in a home,” Juthani said. She noted that there is $30 million in federal funding slated to further help with local abatement efforts.

Lastly, the law set up a working group, which will report back to lawmakers by year’s end.

In a news release when the bill was signed into law, Lamont said the moves were overdue.

“Childhood lead poisoning has catastrophic impacts on health and development, including irreversible learning and developmental disabilities,” Lamont said. “In particular, this problem has most deeply impacted minority families and those who live in disadvantaged communities. For too long, the standards for lead testing and treatment in Connecticut have fallen well behind the best practices, and I am glad we are making these long-overdue updates.”

Jeff Cohen started in newspapers in 2001 and joined Connecticut Public in 2010, where he worked as a reporter and fill-in host. In 2017, he was named news director. Then, in 2022, he became a senior enterprise reporter.
Latest Stories