BALTIMORE (AP) -- State environmental officials say the number of childhood lead poisoning cases in Maryland has dropped to its lowest level since testing was implemented nearly 25 years ago.
A report released Wednesday by the Maryland Department of the Environment found that 355 children out of nearly 120,000 kids tested had blood lead levels that constitute lead poisoning. That amounts to 0.3 percent of children tested.
When testing was first implemented in 1993, nearly 25 percent of the 60,000 children tested that year had lead poisoning.
Officials attribute the drop to a 1994 law that regulated lead paint in older rental housing.
“We are making progress in the battle against childhood lead poisoning in Maryland," said Ben Grumbles, Secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment in a statement.
"The Maryland Department of the Environment is committed to reducing exposure to lead in newer rental homes now covered under Maryland’s lead law and to enforcing the law for older rental units, including those in Baltimore City. We will work closely with our partners, such as the Department of Health, the Department of Housing and Community Development, Baltimore City, the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, and the U.S. EPA to eliminate this completely preventable disease.”
For the first time, the report also tracks potential sources of lead exposure in reported cases of childhood lead poisoning and finds that many young children with elevated blood lead levels may have been exposed to lead from sources other than deteriorated lead-based paint.
The report follows Governor Larry Hogan’s announcement earlier this year that the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved an application by the Maryland Department of Health to launch a $7.2 million initiative to reduce lead poisoning and improve asthma, two conditions related to environmental conditions in housing.
The Department of Health, in collaboration with the MDE and the DHCD, will implement the initiative. Governor Hogan also proclaimed this week as Lead Poisoning Prevention Week in Maryland.
Exposure to lead can cause developmental and neurological damage in children, especially before age 6.