The need to check blood lead levels to screen children in Point Douglas, Weston and St. Boniface where there is high lead exposure
On Thursday October 15, in a Member's Statement in the Manitoba Legislature, I talked about the dangers of lead poisoning, the ability to help children who have high lead levels detected between age 1 and 3, and the need to be screening children in areas of Winnipeg which are known to have high lead exposure by checking their blood lead levels.
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): It arrives silently like a thief in the night, with no visible symptoms, or with symptoms which are easily confused with other conditions.
It robs children of their potential. It damages children's brains. It reduces their IQ. They're more likely to drop out of school. They're more vulnerable to impulsive and aggressive actions because their self‑control is poor. They become vulnerable to developing a mental illness or an addiction and to engaging in juvenile delinquency or crime.
This all-too-silent destroyer is lead. It is toxic and poisonous to children at very low levels. Because it is hard to detect, children need to be screened with blood lead tests early in their lives, between the ages of one and three.
Forty-five years ago the Centers for Disease Control in the US recommended screening children in areas with high lead exposure; 30 years ago the CDC included universal screening in its strategic plan.
Today, many states in the US have universal screening, and yet in Manitoba, where high lead exposure was identified 40 to 50 years ago, we are still not screening children.
Screening and intervention can remarkably improve a child's life. Interventions for children screened early and found to have a high blood-lead level have reduced school absences by 30 per cent, have reduced school suspensions by 40 per cent, have reduced involvement in crime by 40 per cent and have reduced arrests for violent crime by 66 per cent.
We need to screen all children in Point Douglas, Weston and St. Boniface, which have high lead exposures. Manitoba has already delayed far too long to address lead poisoning. Screening needs to be done as soon as possible. It is urgent. These children can't wait. Their future depends upon it.