Petrarca: Bill to provide blood lead testing in young children moves forward in House

HARRISBURG, Nov. 20 – A measure to provide for blood lead testing of young children and mandate the state Department of Health develop a comprehensive educational program on childhood lead poisoning was approved today by the state House Children and Youth Committee, state Rep. Joseph Petrarca announced.

Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, who serves as the Democratic chairman of the committee, said the bill, which included an amendment he authored, would require children to be tested for lead between 9 and 12 months of age and again at 24 months of age. If the results are at or above the range value identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the health care provider must perform an additional test no later than 12 weeks from the first blood lead test.

The measure would also require the Department of Health to develop and provide appropriate educational materials on childhood lead poisoning and testing, insurance coverage, treatment and remediation. In addition, DOH would also be required to develop an electronic system for the storage and management of blood lead testing information.

“We know that most lead exposure happens in older homes that were built using lead-based paint, or in homes where lead is found in water lines,” said Petrarca. “With Pennsylvania ranking third in the country for housing built before 1950, it’s imperative that children who may be at risk for lead exposure be tested. Even at very low levels, lead exposure can cause serious issues in children. The greatest risk is to brain development, where irreversible damage can occur, in addition to other serious health problems. This testing will help us ensure Pennsylvania’s children can be properly screened and treated for lead exposure and protect them from significant long-term health concerns.”

The bill now heads to the House for further consideration.