WDH warns of lead poisoning in Wyoming homes built before 1979

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October 18, 2023 — Press Release, Wyoming Department of Health

Lead found in many Wyoming homes is putting children at risk of damage from lead poisoning, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH). According to Forrest Sharp, Blood Lead Prevention Program manager and epidemiologist with WDH, in 2022, 5.1% of children in Wyoming under the age of six were tested for lead poisoning. That percentage is up from 3.1 in 2021.

“The harms children can experience from lead exposure are very real and quite serious. There is no safe blood lead level,” said Sharp. “A child with lead poisoning may not have obvious signs or symptoms we can see, but the damage to that child can be permanent.”

Childhood lead exposure can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, learning and behavior problems, slow growth and development, and hearing and speech problems.

Older Homes in Wyoming

Sharp added, “We know about half of homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint, and U.S. Census data tells us more than half of Wyoming homes were built before 1980.” Sharps says it a good idea to hire a certified inspector or risk assessor for homes built before 1978.

Children and adults most often get lead into their bodies by ingesting or inhaling lead dust or from eating paint chips or soil with lead. Young children are more likely to experience lead’s negative effects because their bodies are still developing; they absorb more lead per body size, and habits such as mouthing and crawling can introduce more contaminants.

Children’s blood lead levels tend to increase from 6 to 12 months of age and tend to peak at 18 to 24 months of age. “That’s why it’s recommended to test children for lead at both 12 and 24 months,” Sharp said.

Sharp noted blood lead tests are seven times higher for Wyoming children at 12 months of age than at 24 months of age.

Recommended actions to help prevent lead exposure at home include:

Fixing peeling or chipping lead-based paint

Regularly cleaning surfaces using wet methods

Washing children’s hands, pacifiers and toys

Removing shoes before entering the house

Washing clothes and showering immediately after lead-related work or hobbies

For homes built before 1978, Sharp said it can be a good idea to hire a certified inspector or risk assessor to check for lead hazards.