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Students trying to 'Get the lead out' of South Bend's Northwest side

WSBT 22 graphic

A campaign Saturday on South Bend’s northwest side aims to raise awareness about lead testing and prevention in the community. Students from the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University South Bend will spend their Saturday trying to "get the lead out."

They'll stop at roughly 2,000 homes in the city's northwest side to talk to people about lead and encourage them to get their kids tested.

"I've never done anything like this before, so I'm really looking forward to actually talking to community members and really getting to know the people that I’m surrounded by and not just my Notre Dame community,” said Notre Dame Global Health master’s student Danielle La Fleur.

Centers for Disease Control data shows that few kids across the state are ever tested for lead. In St. Joseph County, only about 10 percent of kids under age six have been tested.

"We need parents to know, for their children's sake, whether or not their children have elevated blood lead levels, so it's critical that parents are getting their children tested,” said Heidi Beidinger-Burnett, a professor at Notre Dame’s Eck Institute for Global Health.

Health department data shows that more than 30-percent of children tested in South Bend's northwest side between 2005 and 2015 had elevated levels of lead in their blood.

All children between 12 and 24 months old who are enrolled in Medicaid are required to have a lead screening. Since that doesn't always happen, health officials say it's critical kids for kids to get screened at least once before they turn seven.

They hope an event like the one planned for Saturday can help make that happen.

"We are hoping very much that this is a very casual, fun family affair where we're getting together with neighbors, and we're also talking about this serious issue in our community,” said Near Northwest Neighborhood Association Director Kathy Schuth.

It is an issue that may take years to solve but the community is prepared to take it on, one house at a time. Nurses from Women, Infants and Children program and Beacon Health will do the free lead tests during a free ice cream social from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Near Northwest Neighborhood Association office on Portage Avenue.

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