Gabriella Celeste, policy director at the Schubert Center for Child Studies and co-chair of the Ohio Lead Free Kids Coalition, encouraged Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Minority Health Strike Force to maintain the momentum for addressing the lead crisis outlined in the February 2020 “Action Plan for Lead Free Children.” Celeste asserted that the state must take a primary prevention approach to change how it confronts the lead crisis.
Lead is a devastating neurotoxin that damages children’s brains and bodies, and there is no safe level of lead in the blood. Young children are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning because they may be easily exposed to lead paint while crawling. They may also be exposed to lead poisoning through water-based baby formula or by drinking water that flows through residential lead service lines. The American Medical Association and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that lead can be especially destructive to childrens’ still-developing neurological, cognitive and social-emotional abilities.
The highest rates of reported child lead poisoning in Ohio tend to be found in communities that are predominantly African American and low-income. Celeste said part of the challenge of lead poisoning is that it can have delayed impacts. While there can be immediate, serious health consequences, lead exposure in childhood can also harm a child throughout their development. This may create learning and behavior challenges that lead to other harmful impacts, such as increased disciplining at school. Problems caused by lead poisoning that emerge through childhood and adolescence have serious lifelong consequences for individuals and for the community as a whole.