Senate hearing focuses on concern for lead exposure

Senator John Yudichak (D-14)

WOLF-TV (Pittston, Luzerne County)-In June, Senator John Yudichak (D-14) created a state-wide task force to asses lead exposure and invest resources in lead abatement programs.

On Monday, along with heads of various health and environmental agencies and city leaders, he held a public hearing to talk about the dangers of lead in homes and businesses.

"Last year we had a child in Nanticoke that had an exposure to lead that was 40 percent higher than acceptable level," said Yudichak.

"So clearly this a threat to our children and we have to make sure our schools, daycare centers, and homes are safe."

Yudichak is aiming to mandate tests for lead exposure in children under the age of two, which is not currently mandatory in Pennsylvania. Executive Director of Luzerne County Head Start Lynn Evans-Biga agrees with this early screening method.

"All of the children who come to Head Start are screened for lead, and of all of the children last year, which was over 1,000, there were 11 children whose levels were high," said Evans-Biga.

Dr. Loren Robinson, Deputy Secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, is also a pediatrician, and thinks Pennsylvania should take all steps necessary to avoid a situation like the recent tainted water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

"Not only in the wake of Flint, but just having the third oldest housing stock, you've got children in private daycares, you have children who work around lead dust paint," said Dr. Robinson.

"To ensure that our children are safe, we do need to test every child."

According to Senator Yudichak, one of the main areas of concern when it comes to local lead levels is the problem of aging housing and infrastructure.

"The Federal Government banned lead paint in housing projects in 1978," said the Senator.

"Most of the homes built here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Wilkes-Barre, Pittston, Hazleton, Nanticoke, were built before 1950."

The lead task force will meet again in 18 months to discuss possible legislation.

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