Blood lead levels – program remains on track for target

Members of the Trail Area Health and Environment Program are still on track for their goal of lowering blood lead levels in Trail.

Although change was minimal in 2011, members of the Trail Area Health and Environment Program are pleased they are still on track for their 2015 goal of lowering blood lead levels in Trail.

In their latest report, “Fall 2011 Blood Lead Results,” the percentage of children aged six months to three years in Trail and Rivervale with a microgram of lead per deciliter of blood (ug/dL) lower than 10 was 92 per cent — three percentage points off of the 95 percentile they are seeking and two per cent better than 2010.

In 2011, for children under three years of age, the percentage of children at or above 10 ug/dL was eight per cent, only one per cent were at 15 ug/dL and nobody at 20 ug/dL.

“We are pleased that we are getting closer to our 2015 target,” said Jeannine Stefani, public health nurse and coordinator with Trail Lead Health Services.

In 1989, less than 20 per cent of local preschoolers had blood-lead levels below the level of concern (10). Blood lead levels greater than 10 (ug/dL) are levels at which Centre for Disease Control and Prevention would recommend public health actions be initiated.

Late summer 2011 conditions were again warm and dry and the levels of lead in ambient air and dust fall were similar to 2010, she said. Testing for blood lead levels took place from the end of September to the beginning of October.

In all, 151 children from six months to five years old were tested at the B.C. Children’s Hospital lab. Of these, 106 were the target age group of kids, six months to three years in Trail and Rivervale

The previous goal of the program was to have 90 per cent of children under 10 ug/dL, which the program has met, said Stefani. The new goal set last year was to have 95 per cent of target children under 10 ug/dL by 2015.

Stefani was optimistic the goal could be achieved, by continuing with their “comprehensive” programs that provide preventive advice and actions and for identifying cases where follow-up actions and support are warranted.

The community-led program, which is delivered by Teck, Interior Health and the B.C.

Ministry of Environment, has been created to maintain environmental initiatives for the past 10 years — following a vision initially set by the Trail lead task force in 1990.

“We need to continue to increase awareness of the community supports available in order to maximize participation in the program, and work together with families to decrease children’s blood lead levels,” Stefani said.

Studies have shown children with higher blood lead levels tend, on average, to score slightly lower on developmental tests than children with lower blood levels.

Since its inception 10 years ago, the average blood-lead levels in Trail preschoolers haven fallen from 13 micrograms of lead per decilitre of blood to just over five.