What can Ohio do about lead exposure in children?

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On Monday, a group of medical researchers published an original investigation in JAMA Pediatrics examining individual and community blood lead levels in children across the United States.

As reported in the Ohio Capital Journal, this study found that the rate of elevation of blood lead levels in Ohio among children was well over double the national average and higher than that of all other states with data outside of Nebraska.

In a world where everything seems to be a political issue, reducing lead poisoning in children appears to be an obvious problem in mobilizing resources regardless of your political affiliation. And the economy of the problem justifies the intervention.

Altarum, a Michigan-based not-for-profit health and healthcare research and advisory company, estimates the lifetime economic burden of lead exposure in Ohio at $ 2.8 billion. dollars. These costs are borne in the form of reduced productivity over the life course, increased expenditure on health care, education and social assistance, and premature mortality.

Fortunately, governments have options to reduce the dangers of lead to children. One option is to control the current dangers of lead through strategies such as treating lead-contaminated paint, dust and soil and replacing old windows. According to Altarum, a half-billion dollar lead hazard control program would help approximately 50,000 households and 64,000 children and bring in $ 660 million in gross profits, or $ 1.40 in profits for every dollar spent on lead reduction.

Aside from painting, childhood lead exposure also comes from lead pipes. Governments can therefore also reduce lead exposure by replacing the lead service lines of homeowners and utilities for those that do not. According to Altarum, a $ 170 million lead maintenance pipe replacement program in Ohio would replace 25,000 lines, help protect 32,000 children, generate $ 230 million in gross economic benefits and result in a return of $ 1, $ 40 in profit for every dollar spent on replacing lead pipes. .

Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued standards for remodeling, repairing, and painting, requiring lead-free work practices. Since enforcement of Environmental Protection Agency standards is often the responsibility of the state government, this can be another cost-effective tool to reduce lead exposure for children. Altarum reports that a $ 74 million execution program could impact 200,000 renovations, protect 11,000 children and bring in $ 220 million in gross profits, or a return of $ 3 in benefits for every $ 1 invested in the program.

These figures speak for the effectiveness of investments in lead reduction: lead poisoning leads to lower productivity, increased spending on health care, education and social assistance, and premature mortality. Interventions that can reduce lead poisoning and these low-cost impacts can thus grow the economy. But reducing lead poisoning can also improve equity outcomes in the state. For example, the counties with the highest levels of high blood lead levels in the state, Cuyahoga, Hamilton, Lucas and Mahoning, all have high blood lead levels of over 12%, more than twice the state average. and six times the national average. mean. These are also many counties with both the highest poverty rates and the largest black populations.

Treating lead, replacing piping, and enforcing Environmental Protection Agency building standards are all cost-effective tools for reducing lead exposure that can also improve fairness outcomes. If Ohio wants to do something about lead exposure in children, it has the tools to do it.

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