By EMMA BARTLETT
Lead exposure is up 1 percent in Cranston children under age six, according to recently released data from the RI Kids Count 2022 Factbook. Out of the city’s 791 kids …
By EMMA BARTLETT
Lead exposure is up 1 percent in Cranston children under age six, according to recently released data from the RI Kids Count 2022 Factbook. Out of the city’s 791 kids tested, 30 individuals had elevated blood lead levels.
According to the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), all Rhode Island children must have at least two blood lead screening tests by age three and an annual screening through age six. In 2021, 602 of the 22,385 Rhode Island children under age six who were tested for lead exposure had elevated lead levels. While exposure to lead can come from many places -- such as corrosion of lead service lines or homes and schools built before 1978 -- there are preventative measures individuals can take.
RIDOH’s website offers preventative actions to help families avoid lead paint and lead dust. These measures include covering peeling/flaking paint with contact paper or duct tape, washing windows, doorways and dusty areas with a cloth or mop and removing shoes or using a doormat before entering your home to prevent tracking in soil that may contain lead.
There are also environmental inspections available where RIDOH sends certified lead inspectors to determine whether there are lead hazards present in the home and then works with owners to make the property lead-safe.
Infants, toddlers and preschool-age children are most susceptible to lead poisoning, and – according to RI Kids Count – children living in the state’s four core cities (Central Falls, Providence, Pawtucket and Woonsocket) are three times more likely to be exposed to lead since housing stock in those areas tend to be older. Lead exposure (even at low levels) can cause slowed growth and development, learning disabilities, neurological damage and behavioral problems.
RI Kids Count found that “although the percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels is declining nationally and in Rhode Island, low-income children continue to be at higher risk of lead exposure.”
Additionally in May, Councilman John Donegan introduced a Safe House Occupancy ordinance which would require landlords to acquire a certificate for safe occupancy for each dwelling unit before renting a space. This ordinance would ensure that housing units were up to code and not violating laws which could put residents in hazardous situations.
At April’s ordinance meeting, Donegan spoke about Cranston’s aging housing stock – which is higher on the eastern side of Cranston – and mentioned that with aging housing comes potential hazards and unsafe conditions, such as lead exposure.
Since the ordinance’s introduction in April, Donegan has been working on possible amendments to lessen the burden on the landlord and reduce the city’s role in the ordinance. He said the ordinance is a synthesis of bits and pieces of laws and ordinances from several places – including Boston, Massachusetts, and Greensborough, North Carolina. The work took him a year and included input from various individuals and attorneys.
The ordinance will be heard again at the June 16 Ordinance Committee meeting and is waiting for a fiscal note from the Finance department to determine how much the certification program would cost the city to implement and enforce.
Donegan said American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds are quickly dissipating and could assist in addressing the city’s lead predicament.
“With funds coming in, there’s no reason why we can't dramatically reduce and eliminate lead poisoning here in Cranston,” said Donegan, mentioning that other more affluent and socioeconomic townships and municipalities have significantly lower lead levels in children under six.
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