Some families in Salina, Kan., have been informed by state health officials that cases of lead poisoning are resulting from conditions within their homes rather than a common culprit in the community.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment in late spring launched an investigation after a review of routine physical exams found that 32 children in and around the Saline County seat carried elevated levels of lead.
The agency’s findings on the causes of the problem will be released in a summary report in late September, said department spokeswoman Cassie Sparks. But for now mailings are being sent to affected households that inspectors visited in recent weeks so families can address the dangers in their homes.
“There might be one or multiple things for each family” to eliminate their children’s exposure to lead, Sparks said. “But there are no commonalities among the cases, and we hadn’t expected there to be one cause.”
A 33-page report sent to homeowners Allen and Jessie Long said inspectors confirmed traces of lead from old paint on their front porch. Paint dust had flaked onto the ground where their 2-year-old daughter Elizabeth plays.
Elizabeth earlier this year was found to have slightly elevated lead levels in her bloodstream.
“I think we got our answer. Now we just have to get it cleaned up,” said Allen Long.
He said he was relieved that the source of the elevated lead levels was not the city’s water supply, a public play area or a local battery manufacturer. All such possibilities had generated some worry among residents, especially in light of the water scandal that led to a poisoning outbreak in Flint, Mich.
One renter, Nicole Krob, said she turned her state inspection report over to her landlord in hopes the owner will install new siding to replace chipping exterior paint.
“The landlord has no choice but to fix it since health officials know,” said Krob, who has three children carrying severe levels of lead.
Kansas health authorities have come under criticism in recent years for rejecting federal aid that once helped property owners in some urban counties make needed fixes to reduce lead exposure. Sparks said those federal funds were never available to properties in Saline County.