Rauner cabinet: “Childhood lead exposure leads to disabilities, delays, violent behavior

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Governor Bruce Rauner’s Cabinet on Children and Youth recently announced a statewide, cross-agency initiative to reduce children’s exposure to lead.

Lead poisoning is one of the most prevalent, preventable, environmental health hazards and is known to contribute to learning disabilities, developmental delays, and violent behavior.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Doctor Nirav D. Shah says there is no safe level of lead in the body, and that children exposed to high lead levels tend to suffer from life-long complications that affect their ability to think, learn, or behave.

Shah explained that reducing blood lead levels among all Illinois children six years of age or younger would reduce crime and increase on-time high school graduation rates later in life.

Compared to other states, Illinois remains among the highest for percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels. Out of approximately 270,000 Illinois children tested in 2014, more than 18,000 had blood lead levels at the federal public health intervention level.

As one focus of the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, lead exposure has an impact on all of the other Cabinet subgroups.

Reducing lead exposure and decreasing the level at which children are eligible for public health services would have a positive impact on educational achievement.

There are opportunities to connect home visiting programs and other social service initiatives with expanded lead-related activities, creating more robust services and a more integrated social service delivery system.

Deteriorating lead-based paint remains the primary source of lead exposure to children.  Approximately 66 percent of Illinois housing units were built prior to the residential lead paint ban of 1978.