National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is Oct. 21 to 27. To mark the week, Healthy Waldo County, our local Healthy Maine Partnership, is partnering with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (MeCDC) to offer parents of young children who live in older homes a free home lead dust test kit.

The offers for free tests come with an educational brochure. Families of children born in 2010 will receive the offer and brochure through the mail. In addition, Healthy Waldo County will be distributing the offers and brochures to families in Waldo County through the mail.

“The point of offering these free test kits is to help our local families figure out if their home has a lead dust problem,” said Vyvyenne Ritchie, “and help them figure out what to do to keep their children safe from lead.”

Lead poisoning is preventable and yet about 100 Maine kids under age 6 are identified with lead poisoning each year. That’s 100 kids who may have long-term behavior and learning problems because of lead. Those 100 kids may require special services and they may be at a disadvantage in school and later as working adults. It is simply 100 kids too many.

Exposure to dust that comes from lead paint in homes built before 1950 is the most common way children are poisoned by lead in Maine. Lead paint is often found in homes built before 1950 and sometimes in homes built before 1978. Lead poisoning can cause behavior problems, learning disabilities, speech and language delays, and lower intelligence.

“Waldo County has a lot of homes built before 1950. We are hoping that the families with little kids — especially kids under age 3 — who live in these older homes will take advantage of the opportunity to test their home for lead,” said Ms Ritchie.

Made possible by the Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund, the free lead dust tests are part of Maine’s effort to eliminate childhood lead poisoning.

Healthy Waldo County has a contract with the Maine CDC to distribute information and do other community outreach on lead poisoning prevention.