Lead Exposure from Wyoming Homes Can Harm Children

October 18, 2023

Lead Exposure from Wyoming Homes Can Harm Children

Lead found in many Wyoming homes is putting children at risk of damage from lead poisoning, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).

“The harms children can experience from lead exposure are very real and quite serious. There is no safe blood lead level,” said Forrest Sharp, Blood Lead Prevention Program manager and epidemiologist with WDH. “A child with lead poisoning may not have obvious signs or symptoms we can see, but the damage to that child can be permanent.”

Childhood lead exposure can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, learning and behavior problems, slow growth and development, and hearing and speech problems.

“We know about half of homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint and U.S. Census data tells us more than half of Wyoming homes were built before 1980,” Sharp said.

“Unfortunately, in 2022, only 5.1 percent of Wyoming children under six were tested for lead, which is up from 3.1 percent in 2021,” Sharp said.

Children and adults most often get lead into their body by ingesting or inhaling lead dust or from eating paint chips or soil with lead. Young children are more likely to experience lead’s negative effects because their bodies are still developing, they absorb more lead per body size and habits such as mouthing and crawling can introduce more contaminants.

Children’s blood lead levels tend to increase from 6 to 12 months of age and tend to peak at 18 to 24 months of age. “That’s why it’s recommended to test children for lead at both 12 and 24 months,” Sharp said.

Sharp noted blood lead tests are seven times higher for Wyoming children at 12 months of age than at 24 months of age.

Recommended actions to help prevent lead exposure at home include:

  • Fixing peeling or chipping lead-based paint
  • Regularly cleaning surfaces using wet methods
  • Washing children’s hands, pacifiers and toys
  • Removing shoes before entering the house
  • Washing clothes and showering immediately after lead-related work or hobbies

For homes built before 1978, Sharp said it can be a good idea to hire a certified inspector or risk assessor to check for lead hazards.

To learn more about lead poisoning issues, residents are invited to participate in a series of educational webinars from federal government experts:

  •  Children and Lead Exposure: Current Issues: Join the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) October 26 from 12-1 p.m. for a live presentation in which subject matter experts will discuss CDC’s childhood lead poisoning prevention efforts, recent stories regarding lead exposure and treatment and recent recalls. Register here.
  •  Understanding Lead: Join the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Oct. 25 from 12–1:30 p.m. for a live webinar about lead, its impacts and actions that can be taken to reduce potential lead exposures and lead poisoning. Register here.
  •  Understanding Lead (Spanish): Join EPA Oct. 24 from 12–1:30 p.m. for a live webinar in Spanish about lead, its impacts and actions that can be taken to reduce potential lead exposures and lead poisoning. Register here.
  •  Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule Awareness: Join EPA Oct. 25 from 10–11 a.m. for a live presentation for contractors and local building code and enforcement officials about EPA’s RRP rule, which concerns RRP projects in homes, childcare facilities and preschools built before 1978. Register here.

For more information about lead testing and prevention recommendations in Wyoming, please contact Sharp at forrest.sharp@wyo.gov or 307-777-5606.