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Dundalk family encourages lead testing for children after personal battle

lead family.jpg
Posted at 5:09 PM, Oct 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-25 18:24:02-04

DUNDALK, Md (WMAR) — Lead paint turned one Baltimore County family's life upside down, but state resources helped them get out of the dangerous situation.

"I'm really grateful for the help that we were able to get," said mom Magain Fitzgerald.

It was a few years ago that Fitzgerald bought her first home in Dundalk.

"Though it was old, it was newly renovated so I hadn’t thought about lead or anything like that when I moved in," said Fitzgerald.

Then she got married and had her son Landon. During routine lead testing at the doctor when he was 1.5 years old, he was found to have high levels of lead in his blood.

"My heart dropped. I had never dealt with anything like that before. I wasn’t sure what to do or where to go," said Fitzgerald. "At first, I thought he was going to have a long term issue."

Lead can harm a child’s brain, causing lifelong learning and behavior problems. She said thankfully, the Maryland Department of Health called her to go over resources available.

"In a matter of months, they had moved my family out into another situation while they came in, fully renovated, lead abated the home," said Fitzgerald. "It was a lot and it was nothing that my family could have afforded at the time at the drop of a dime."

This Lead Poisoning Prevention week, she joined health officials outside her home to spread awareness about the resources available to Maryland families and the need to take action.

Last year, nearly 2,000 Maryland children were identified as having lead levels at or above the CDC reference level and COVID-19 caused a decrease in the amount of kids getting tested for lead exposure.

"Testing is the only way you can tell whether or not your child has been exposed to lead and it is through that test that we can trigger the services to help prevent further damage," said Dr. Clifford Mitchell, director of the Environmental Health Bureau for the Maryland Department of Health.

There are two new programs available for families with a child exposed to lead.

The Healthy Homes for Healthy Kids Program removes lead hazards from the home at no cost if the child:

  • Is 18 years old or younger and lives in Maryland
  • Has a recent blood lead test of 5 micrograms per deciliter or higher
  • Is enrolled in OR eligible for Medicaid/CHIP
  • Spends 10 hours or more per week in the place (home, apartment, day care) where the lead exposure happened

The Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention and Environmental Case Management Program provides in-home services in nine jurisdictions to reduce exposures to lead and to asthma triggers if the child:

  • Is 18 years old or younger and lives in Maryland
  • Has a recent blood lead test of 5 micrograms per deciliter or higher, OR moderate to severe asthma (child has frequent asthma attacks or is on a daily long-term controller medication)
  • Is enrolled in OR eligible for Medicaid/MCHP

"These services help families control lead dust, reduce the risk of additional exposures, provide education and also provide materials up to an including a heap vacuum cleaner," said Dr. Mitchell.
Landon, now four, has made progress, but they are still working to combat effects from the lead exposure.

"There is some residual that I'm working with a speech therapist and he does have some anger issues that we’re working on," said Fitzgerald.

She hopes more families will get their kids tested, and use the state’s resources to keep them safe.