When the call went out last September by the Trail Area Health and Environment Committee (THEC) for another round of children’s blood lead testing the citizens of the Greater Trail area responded in force.
In a departure from its usual practice THEC expanded its sample base beyond the usual focus area of East Trail, West Trail, Tadanac, and Rivervale and reached out to the surrounding neighbourhoods and communities of Oasis, Casino, Waneta, Warfield, and Annable as well.
The results are in and they are promising.
At a Tuesday night meeting THEC presented the results of the 2013 children’s blood lead testing clinic which indicated that the average blood lead level for children aged six to 36 months in Trail and Rivervale is 4.9 µg/dL (micrograms per decilitre) with 93 per cent of children testing below 10 µg/dL.
These results are within striking distance of the program’s 2015 goal of an average of 4 µg/dL and 95 per cent of children testing below 10 µg/dL.
“The trend is moving in the right direction,” said Dr. Andrew Larder, senior medical health officer with Interior Health. “I congratulate everyone involved in the program.”
The results are particularly encouraging given that the participation rate in the 2013 clinic was large enough to provide solid data to base the results on.
This round between 70 and 75 per cent of the children in the target age groups and areas were involved in the testing.
“The Trail program made efforts to re-engage the community and it seems to be working,” said Larder. “People should be pleased with the work done by THEC, with everyone working together we’re seeing results. The important thing is continuing to see a downward trend.”
Having a larger proportion of the population available for testing also provided an opportunity to analyze the results in a more comprehensive manner.
After the previous round of testing in 2012 it appeared that the blood lead levels of children in Trail had plateaued, or stabilized, at levels that weren’t as encouraging given the desired 2015 goal.
Larder explained that the previous results had been somewhat skewed by the testing methods that were used to take the samples.
The 2013 results are based on venous samples only, meaning blood samples taken from a vein rather than a finger. Finger poke samples, known as capillary samples, have a greater risk of contamination. A review showed that over the 22-year history of children’s blood lead testing in Trail, capillary samples have had statistically higher lead levels than venous samples.
“With the results from this year we re-calibrated the results from the last 10 years from the venous samples only,” Larder said. “Since 2010 the proportion began to increase in capillary tests, although venous is the gold standard. We’re working with the prevention program at Interior Health to make changes to get the proportion lower. In future we’ll look at capillary samples separately from venous samples.”
Larder said that THEC, the information it gathers, and the working relationship between the partners — the local community, Teck, the Ministry of the Environment, and Interior Health — provides an excellent example of public health management.
“What makes this so wonderful is that the program is driving decisions Teck is making on a day to day basis,” he said. “This is having a direct impact on the health of the community.”