Lead-containing paint was banned in 1978. The PA Department of Health estimates that 70% of PA homes were built before 1978. PA ranks 4th in the nation for having the most houses built before 1978. For decades, health professionals focused on individual home exposures. Although many child care programs use buildings built before 1978, no state-wide requirement exists for doing lead checks in these facilities.
Many health professionals screen children for the need to do blood lead testing by asking about the age of the child’s home. Few think to ask about the age or condition of other places where the child spends time routinely. Blood levels of less than 10 micrograms/deciliter can affect the child’s mental and physical health. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control lowered this threshold for harm to 5 micrograms/deciliter.
PA child care regulations prohibit “peeled or damaged paint or damaged plaster… on indoor or outdoor surfaces in the child care facility.” (See regulation PA §3270.77, §3280.77, §3290.75.) The national health and safety best practice Standard 18.104.22.168 in Caring for Our Children (CFOC) specifies testing for lead in child care facilities. In addition to painted surfaces, the standard requires testing of the grounds, grassy areas and dirt around and under outdoor surfaces that children use.
For suggestions about how to have lead tests done in a child care facility, contact the state, county or municipal Department of Health. Currently, the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP) may provide education to families or child care home providers, and in some cases may assist with testing homes to identify sources of lead. Local CLPPP providers can be found at the state Department of Health website: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=558056&mode=2