To the Editor:
The scourge of childhood lead exposure can have devastating impacts on Southern Illinois children and is entirely preventable. Illinois has taken some important steps on this issue as highlighted in the Southern Illinoisan on Feb. 3. (“New Illinois rules aim to help prevent childhood lead poisoning, but will there be money to implement them?”)
Revised state rules lower the threshold for young children to be considered to have an elevated level of lead in their blood, to 5 micrograms per deciliter from the previous level of 10. This is consistent with the latest research telling us that any amount of lead in young children’s blood can have a detrimental impact on development.
With these new rules, more than 10 times as many Southern Illinois children younger than age of 6 will be eligible for services. Nearly 70 percent of these children are younger than 3. These mandated services include nurse case management and inspections to identify lead hazards that need abatement.
This is good news for those of us in law enforcement because multiple research findings have found an association between young children’s elevated lead exposure and later criminal activity. Lead poisoning is also linked to a number of other health issues and behavioral problems.
There was also good news in the Governor’s proposed FY2020 Illinois budget: an additional $6 million for the Illinois Department of Public Health to work through our local health departments and other agencies to provide services to the increased numbers of eligible young children.
Let’s hope the final budget includes these critical resources and gets us one step closer to eliminating the entirely preventable problem of lead exposure that plagues too many of our young children. Protecting our kids from lead will give them a better start in life and make our communities safer in the long run.
Tyler R. Edmonds
Union County State’s Attorney
Alexander County Sheriff
Brandon J. Zanotti
Williamson County State’s Attorney