After decades of inertia, Connecticut is finally moving to help its thousands of lead-poisoned children and prevent thousands of other young children from being damaged by the widespread neurotoxin. The state will direct most of its efforts — and most of $30 million in federal money — toward its cities, whose children have borne the brunt of this epidemic. In announcing the allocation recently, Gov. Ned Lamont pointed to lead’s “catastrophic” effects on children’s health and development, noting that lead poisoning is “a problem that impacts most deeply minority and disadvantaged communities of our state.” Nearly half of the 1,024 children reported as lead poisoned in 2020 lived in New Haven, Bridgeport, Waterbury, Hartford, or other cities, according to state Department of Public Health numbers. The more enduring thrust of the state’s new actions, however, is the strengthening of its outdated lead laws, starting in 2023.
Nearly 1,400 new cases of lead-poisoned children under age 6 were reported in Connecticut in 2015, a slight drop from the year before, but more children showed higher levels of poisoning. A child whose blood test shows 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter or higher is considered poisoned. The 2015 numbers show 98 new cases of children with lead levels of 20 micrograms or higher, four times the threshold number and a 32 percent jump from 2014. “We cannot, with any certainty, explain why this is the case,” said Krista M. Veneziano, coordinator of the Connecticut Department of Public Health’s (DPH’s) Lead, Radon, and Healthy Homes Program, about the disproportionately larger numbers of higher toxicity. Exposure to lead can damage cognitive ability, including a measurable and irreversible loss in IQ points.
Noting that 60,000 Connecticut children have been exposed to the toxin lead – and that more than 2,000 have levels high enough that they are lead-poisoned — U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Elizabeth Esty unveiled a bill Monday to help homeowners make their homes safer and better protect children. “We cannot kick the can down the road and hope the problem goes away. It will not,” DeLauro, a Democrat who represents the 3rd Congressional District, said at a press conference at the New Haven Health Department. In a May 7 story, C-HIT reported that figures from the state Department of Public Health show that tens of thousands of children are being regularly exposed to lead paint and lead dust – and that tens of thousands of children are not being properly tested for exposure to the toxin.