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St. Joseph County Health Department offers free lead testing for children

St. Joseph County Health Department offers free lead testing for children ages 1 and 6. // WSBT 22 photo

It’s a health risk that parents may not know is impacting their kids.

On Thursday night the St. Joseph County Health Department offered free lead testing for children ages 1 through 6.

A power outage hampered the event, however.

Originally the testing was supposed to be held at Madison STEAM Academy.

Without power, they ended up moving to the South Bend Medical Foundation at the last minute.

That switch resulted in fewer people, but one family wanted to make sure their kids are safe.

“It was four years ago when my daughter had it, so that’s why I’m taking it again to make sure she is still good" said Amparo Jarramillo, who had her kids tested Thursday.

Dr. Mark Fox. St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer. says says checking at a young age could save a child's development.

"There is good evidence that elevated lead levels effects school performance, educational attainment. Really has lifelong impact because lead is a neurotoxin.”

High levels of lead in blood can have long-lasting problems. It can affect school performance and educational performances.

With just a small prick, kids are able to see if they are at risk.

Nearly 30 percent of children in South Bend have been tested for high lead blood levels.

Often sources are chipped lead-based paint in old homes. Doctors say it’s important to get kids tested.

“Because it’s a silent problem, we can’t identify kids because they don’t have symptoms,” said Fox. “We want to have all kids tested so we can see who needs intervention to reduce their blood level.”

Dr. Fox says the problem is that the county doesn't know just how extensive the lead problem is.

“In certain neighborhoods 30-35 percent of kids have tested with elevated blood lead levels. Our big problem in St. Joseph County is really a small proportion of kids actually get tested.”

Fox says parents can have the answers in less than 48 hours.

He says if anyone does test for high lead levels, their health providers will be contacted to help with treatment.

"...then the health department works with the family and the child’s healthcare provider to come up with a plan to address an abnormal blood lead level.”

The health department says due to power outage, they will be rescheduling another blood testing at Madison STEAM Academy.

That date is yet to be determined. But they say if a parent wants to check now they can contact them to set up a time.

That information can be found here: http://www.sjchd.org/

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