State to Expand Screening for Lead Poisoning

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The State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is circulating draft regulations that would significantly expand the number of children who are tested for lead exposure. Current law and regulations require blood lead tests for children at ages one and two if they: (1) are enrolled in Medicaid; or (2) live in, or have lived in, areas deemed “at risk” because of their housing stock and population. The draft regulations would require universal blood lead testing for all children at ages one and two over the next three years.

Currently, less than a quarter of children in Maryland are tested for lead poisoning. For children living in at risk areas, the testing rate is under 60 percent. While the number of children in Maryland identified with elevated blood lead levels has fortunately and dramatically declined over the past 20 years, more can be done. The Department feels that the proposed universal testing program will allow more children with lead poisoning to be identified sooner, with earlier intervention for medical care.

The draft regulations, if implemented, would likely impact rental housing providers in several ways. For rental properties that have not been certified as lead-free, expanded testing could result in more notices of deficiency being filed if a resident child has elevated blood lead levels. However, as all children become tested at ages one and two, baseline data will become available for lead exposure that may pre-date a child’s tenancy in a rental property. For more information contact Ron Wineholt at rwineholt@aoba-metro.org.