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More Children in Monroe County Considered 'Lead Poisoned'

The Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning released data from Monroe County that shows there was an increase in the number of children with elevated lead levels in their blood last year.

At the same time, there were fewer children being screened.

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"The lead level numbers this year took a little bit of a slip...and I think while overall we can the lead levels are very good in our community, I think the fact that the data are what they are tell us that we need to keep going, we need to keep collaborating," said interim Monroe County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza.

The data show 988 Rochester-area children had unacceptably high blood lead levels in 2015.  That's 277 more that the year before.

Credit Alex Crichton
Interim Monroe County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza

Mel Callan co-chairs the coalition.

She says collaboration is the reason Rochester has made so much progress in fighting lead poisoning.

"We have the Department of Human Services and their housing efforts. We have the Department of Health and their lead poisoning prevention efforts from a health perspective. We have the city of Rochester and their fabulous inspection staff, and we've been able to reduce the numbers from the beginning of the coalition significantly."

Callan says it's important to raise awareness of families to get their homes inspected and their children tested.

Dr. Michael Mendoza, City Council President Loretta Scott, and Coalition co-chair Mel Callan

Mendoza says in this community, the lead problem does not lie in its water supply, it comes from an aging housing stock.

He says it's important people are aware of the dangers of lead poisoning.

"Make sure you raise that to the attention of your health care provider, make sure you get tested as appropriate, and make sure you let others in your community know who may not be able to avail themselves of health care services to do the same thing," he said.

The coalition notes that children, particularly those under the age of 6, are most at risk from even small amounts of lead, and the damage can be permanent.

Health officials say while lead poisoning is untreatable, it is entirely preventable.