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