The higher the number of residents in a town who live in poverty, the greater the chance a child will experience lead poisoning, according to data from the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
There are also very high correlations between the number of children with high lead levels in their bloodstreams and the number of people living in renter-occupied homes and in towns with many minorities.
The lead-poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan, has renewed awareness of lead exposure, so Trend CT examined the latest figures for Connecticut.
More than 75,000 children under the age of 6 in Connecticut were screened for lead in their blood in 2013, the latest year for which statistics are available.
Doctors are required by law to screen children for lead annually between 9 and 35 months of age. Health officials must be notified if a child has five or more micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dL) – levels which have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement — especially in children.
For years, the number of children with elevated blood levels above 10 µg/dL was shrinking but in 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added the new reference value of 5 µg/dL as an indicator of concern.
Between 2012 and 2013 there was a slight increase of 14 cases.
Rural towns near the state borders tend to have higher proportions of children with blood lead levels higher than 5 µg/dL, but that has more to do with small populations in these towns throwing off the ratio.
The raw figures for lead-poisoned children also tend to be highest in high-population municipalities. There is a high correlation between the number of children with high lead levels and the number of residents in rental housing.
New Haven and Bridgeport have the highest incidence of children who had high levels of lead in their blood compared to other municipalities. They also have the most residents who rent their homes.
This trend was reflected in the Department of Public Health’s findings when it investigated the origin of lead in affected children’s homes. Nearly three-quarters of the homes were in multiple-unit dwellings owned by landlords.
According to their report, black children (5.9 percent) and Hispanic children (4.1 percent) were more likely to have high lead levels than whites (2.5 percent) or Asians (2.4 percent).
Officials investigated about 140 homes of lead-poisoned children. Most cases were attributed to paint- and dust-related hazards. None were sourced to drinking water.
Residents can have their water tested for between $20 and $100. The procedure includes taking two samples: a “first draw” for the water that immediately comes out of the tap after the water has not been run for at least six hours, and a “fully flushed” sample taken after the water has run for a couple of minutes. The Department of Public Health has more information.
In 2013, which are the latest figures available, about 2,261 children had blood lead levels more than or equal to 5 µg/dL.
Nearly 100 had a more than 14 and 100 had more than 20.