Doctor shares how the pandemic impacted efforts to screen for lead poisoning

Local News

(WSYR-TV) — The shutdown in 2020 impacted children beyond the classroom. Doctors who screen for lead poisoning were not able to see as many patients last year.

“Kids weren’t coming to the office as much. We can do telehealth to deal with some things, but we can’t test someone’s blood across the Zoom window, unfortunately,” said Dr. Travis Hobart, the Medical Director of the Central/Eastern New York Lead Poisoning Resource Center.

With children spending more time indoors, another concern is exposure to lead.

“We’re worried that some of those kids who were already at risk have been at more risk in the past year just because they weren’t able to go outside or go do the things that they would normally do,” said Dr. Hobart.

According to the CDC, 10,000 children with elevated blood lead levels were missed because of decreased testing. Dr. Hobart said that doesn’t surprise him due to the circumstances. He said the higher numbers typically occur in the summer and fall because that’s when windows and doors are opened and closed more often, but he’s seeing elevated levels already.

“So far in 2021, we’ve already had three kids, three or four kids in the hospital that have been chelated and we’re only in the end of the March,” Dr. Hobart added. “That’s not usually when we see kids in the hospital.”

Although Dr. Hobart said he can’t say for sure, there could possibly be a connection between higher levels and spending more time at home. If you do have a concern, there are things you can do if you’re in an older home.

“Try to keep kids away from any place there is paint that’s chipping or flaking off. Keep the kids away from that because that paint might be old, it might have lead in it,” he added.

Repeatedly opening and closing doors with lead paint can create dust. Instead of sweeping it, Dr. Hobart suggested cleaning it with a wet cloth or mop.

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