Maine CDC Press Release

May 27, 2003

Department of Human Services Announces New Initiative To Screen All Maine Children

Contacts: Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH MaryAnn Amrich
  Director, Bureau of Health Manager, Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
  Tel:  (207) Tel: (207) 287-8753
  TTY: (207) 287-8066 Tel: (207) 287-8015

Augusta - Pursuant to legislation passed last year, the Maine Department of Human Services today introduced a new process for screening children for lead poisoning. The new process is the work of The Task Force on Lead Screening, a group of medical experts and advocates from across the state that have developed a better way to identify children at risk for lead poisoning.

“All of us in Maine are especially grateful for the hard work of the Task Force and the parent advocates on this project,” said Governor John Baldacci. “Their expertise and dedication to this initiative will make Maine an even safer place for our children.”

The new screening process will be an effective and inexpensive way to reduce lead poisoning among young children. “From now on, the parents of every child in Maine between the ages one and two years old will be asked a simple set of questions to determine that child’s possible exposure to lead,” noted Peter Walsh, Acting Commissioner of the Maine Department of Human Services. “Any child who screens positively will receive a blood lead test and that information will help our efforts to provide early intervention and treatment.”

Lead poisoning continues to be one of the more serious environmental health threats to the safety of Maine children. More than 400 kids are diagnosed each year, many of whom are exposed to this heavy metal in their own home. This is particularly true for children living in homes built before 1978, the year a federal law was passed which banned the use of lead in house paint.

Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH, Director of the Bureau of Health explained that the use of the questionnaire and subsequent blood testing will reduce the chances for life-long lead-related learning and neurological deficits. “While children ages one and two years old are at highest risk, the symptoms of developmental delays, behavior problems, and learning disabilities can take years to show up. Early screening and diagnosis,” Dr. Mills added, “will hopefully result in a significant reduction in the consequences of lead poisoning.”

Specifically, the questionnaire is a four part risk assessment tool which will determine whether a child 1) lives in, or visits more than 10 hours per week, any house built before 1950; 2) lives in, or visits more than 10 hours per week, any house built before 1978 that was renovated or remodeled within the last 6 months; 3) spends time with an adult whose job is in construction, painting or fishing; and 4) is enrolled in MaineCare. Over the course of the next month, DHS will be mailing this questionnaire to every pediatric medical provider in Maine with instruction on its application. It is anticipated that new screening process will be in effect statewide by July 1.

Anyone interested in more information on prevention and treatment of lead poisoning should contact the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 287-8753 or over the web at www.maine.gov/dhs/bohdcfh/led/index2.htm.