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Metro Detroit health officials hone in on lead poisoning, prevention

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It’s national lead poisoning prevention week, and Metro Detroit county health officials are zeroing in on the problem with an event Tuesday.

The event at Sterling Heights’ Freedom Hill is focused mostly on education and awareness.

But there’s also an opportunity to test kids’ toys and other products for lead.

Doctor Partow Guity, Macomb County’s chief toxicologist, says parents need to be particularly careful around Halloween, with products like face paint.

“Many items that are made in China have the potential to have lead,” says Guity, who advises parents to look for “non-toxic” labels on kids’ products.

US Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) raised concerns about lead in face paint this month, calling on the the US Food and Drug Administration to perform routine tests for toxic metals in those products.

The recent lead-in-water crisis in Flint has raised larger awareness and concerns of lead poisoning and prevention. But most lead exposure occurs inside the home.

Elevated lead levels can cause developmental delays and other serious health problems in kids, particularly those under age 6.

Guity says it’s impossible to know real rates of lead poisoning, because not all kids get tested. “If every child was tested at age one or two or before six, we will get a much better idea of the prevalence of lead poisoning,” she says.

Health officials recommend that all children living in homes built before 1978 have their blood lead levels checked by a pediatrician.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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