29 YEARS AGO IN IDPH HISTORY
Illinois Lead Poisoning Prevention Act was signed into law in Illinois on Sept. 6, 1973. It made lead poisoning and elevated blood-levels (40 mcg/dL or greater) reportable, prohibited the use of lead-bearing paint in dwellings, gave the Department the authority to inspect dwellings for lead-bearing substances, and required owners of such dwellings to eliminate any hazards.
Lead poisoning, the No. 1 environmental illness of children, is caused primarily by deteriorated lead-based paint in older homes. Many houses built before 1978 contain lead-based paint. In 1978, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the sale of interior residential paint with a lead content greater than 0.06 percent.
In 1991, screening of Illinois children was expanded to require the annual testing of children from 6 months of age through 6 years of age. By January 1993, any child entering a day care setting, nursery school, preschool or kindergarten had to show proof of lead screening. In 1996, amendments to the Illinois Lead Poisoning Prevention Act directed IDPH to designate each ZIP code area in the state as either low-risk or high-risk for childhood exposure to lead. This allowed the Department to better target those children at greatest risk.
Despite education and prevention efforts, nearly 1 million children are lead poisoned every year in the United States. In Illinois, approximately 25,000 children are identified with elevated levels of lead in their blood each year.
Lead can be inhaled, ingested and, occasionally, absorbed through the skin. Once it enters the body, lead is stored in the blood, organs and bones. A potent poison, it affects the brain and nervous system, reproductive capabilities, the kidneys, the digestive system and the ability to make blood.
Children are more susceptible than adults to the health effects of lead exposure because their bodies are still developing. The majority of childhood lead poisoning is attributable to ingestion of lead-contaminated dust through typical hand-to-mouth behavior exhibited by most children.
The Environmental Lead Program, which has been part of the Department since the 1973 legislation was signed, has brought about many improvements in the manufacture of paint, in the removal of lead sources available to children (especially in low-income housing), and in the detection and treatment of children suffering from lead ingestion.
Once a child has been identified with an elevated blood lead level, program staff investigate any dwellings and child care facilities in which the child spends time. If lead hazards are identified, the owner is required to mitigate or abate them. Additionally, program staff issue licenses to lead professionals and contractors and approve training providers in accordance with the requirements of the Lead Poisoning Prevention Code.
A Timeline of the Illinois Department of Public Health