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Get the lead out: Mandatory testing of children is a no-brainer July 14, 2016 12:00 AM By the Editorial Board The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Get the lead out: Mandatory testing of children is a no-brainer

July 14, 2016 12:00 AM

By the Editorial Board

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 

The discovery of elevated levels of lead in Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority lines underscores the need to make sure it isn’t in our children, too.

The Legislature is considering a bill that would mandate lead testing for expectant mothers and for 1- and 2-year-olds, with high-risk children getting annual checks through age 6. If lawmakers don’t pass the bill, sponsored by Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Philadelphia, the Allegheny County Health Department could move forward on its own and implement the testing of children here. But the Legislature should pass Mr. Cruz’s testing bill — and related legislation — so children statewide are protected.

While government intrusion in personal health matters must be limited, laws already require that schoolchildren be vaccinated against various diseases, some of which offer less risk of exposure than lead does today through drinking water or the paint in older homes. Parents may opt out of the immunization regimen for medical, religious or strong philosophical reasons, and Mr. Cruz’s bill would offer a religious exemption. Health insurers would have to pay for the test, an analysis of blood taken from the fingertip or a vein. In a second piece of legislation, Mr. Cruz has proposed more frequent testing of drinking water.

The scandal in Flint, Mich., prompted Mr. Cruz to introduce his bills, and the state’s order that PWSA replace pipes because of increasing lead levels is further reason to implement mandatory testing for children. The greater risk of lead exposure, however, comes from lead-bearing paint and dust. Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh County, has addressed this issue in part with a bill that would require landlords to test their homes and notify prospective tenants of the results.

While the nation has made progress over the years in reducing lead exposure, danger remains, especially in older dwellings that continue to compose much of the region’s housing stock. The bills by Mr. Cruz and Mr. Schlossberg offer tools for combating the danger. If the Legislature fails to act, the county must do so.

 

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