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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

State Works To Increase Lead Screenings For Vermont Children

Lena Sergeeva
Since 2006, Vermont has done a good job increasing the number of kids who get their blood screened for lead. But the Department of Health wants to continue to expand testing.

Official say Vermont has made real progress in reducing the number of children with lead in their blood. But as the number of children being tested levels off, the health department is working on strategies to encourage more parents to get the blood tests for their children.

The Department of Health reports to the Legislature every year on its lead poisoning prevention, and 2015 data were just released.

In the last decade, the number of 1- and 2-year-olds with elevated lead blood levels has dropped significantly.

But just last year, the number of 1-year-olds with lead in their blood jumped, and the number of kids who are being screened is leveling off.

Amelia Ray is the acting Chief for the Healthy Homes Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

She says the health department is developing programs for Vermont's refugee population, and is also trying to work more closely closely with midwives and OBGYNs to educate pregnant women about lead hazards. It's also working with health care providers to increase the number of children who get screened.

"Our goal as a program, and as a state, is to get 100 percent of 1-year olds, and 2-year-olds tested," she says. "And there's always more people that may not know about potential lead hazards and exposures in their homes. So we always do education and outreach, we always try to reach different audiences. So there's always work to do."

Doctors say inadequate cost reimbursement for testing and a lack of insurance are some of the barriers to universal screening.

Vermont spent a little more than $2 million in 2015 on lead poison prevention.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state. 
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