County Health Department, state partner to educate Flint area on lead

This article originally appeared on MLive.

FLINT, MI — The Genesee County Health Department and Michigan Department of Health and Human Resources say they are providing resources to educate Flint residents and primary care providers about lead, and what people should do to protect themselves.

County Health Officer Mark Valacak said it is a continued, joint effort to inform the community about lead exposure.

“We want to make sure everyone who is on the Flint water system has a filter that they are using,” Valacak said. “We want to also encourage parents that have children who are 5 years or less of age to have their lead levels tested.”

Valacak said the health department routinely recommends various testing for children, including WIC clients, to have a series of testing done for 1- and 2-year-olds. He added that the health department tests about 1,500 children a year. There was a slight increase in testing after Flint’s water crisis, he said.

The two departments are developing various educational tools that focus on lead issues and ways to help reduce risk, including good nutrition, lead testing, how to reduce lead exposure, information on where lead comes from and community and state resources.

“We work together all the time,” Valacak said. “It’s just that this is a very serious issue. We’re putting out more resources to try to address the problem.”

Next week, letters will be issued to parents and primary care providers in Flint “To help in providing guidance to support families,” says a news release issued by both departments.

“This is a good time to check with your healthcare provider to make certain your child has been tested at the recommended times, and if not, have the test performed,” said Dr. Gary Johnson, Medical Director, Genesee County Health Department.

The release said adults who work in certain jobs including auto repair, stained glass and jewelry making, and ammunition handling can also put children at risk if they touch clothing or play in areas where lead is found. It also warned that old lead paint, soil, pottery, cosmetics, toys and some home remedies may also expose children to lead.

“Parents and providers can take a number of steps to help reduce exposure, identify signs of lead poisoning, and begin followup care as needed,” said Dr. Eden Wells, Chief Medical Executive with the state department. “Working together, we can all help to protect the health of families in Flint.”

The Genesee County Health Department and Michigan Department of Human Services are recommending that parents and primary care givers in the Flint area use these tips to reduce lead exposure risk:

  • Families who live in the city of Flint and are on the Flint water system or who attend school, childcare, or spend time with a caregiver in the city of Flint, are encouraged to get their children tested for lead poisoning at their doctor’s office or the county health department.
  • Families can get their water tested for lead, for free. Call 810-787-6537 for details about how.
  • Families are encouraged to use an NSF-Certified water filter in their home, and free filters are still available. Call 2-1-1 for information about where to pick up a free filter.
  • Run only cold water through the filter.
  • Use filtered or bottled water for drinking (including making coffee, drink mixes, juice, baby formula), and cooking (even if you boil the water, the lead will stay in the water and food).
  • You can use unfiltered tap water for washing your hands, and washing dishes. If you must use unfiltered water for drinking or cooking, run the tap for five minutes before using the water.
  • Safe cleaning can also reduce the risk of lead exposure in the home. You can use unfiltered tap water to wipe down countertops, mop floors, and wash clothes.
  • Keep children away from lead paint and dust; use wet paper towels to clean up lead dust around windows, play areas and floors; and wash hands and toys often, using soap and water
  • Always wash fruits with filtered water. Some foods help keep lead from being stored in a child’s body, such as calcium-rich foods, iron-rich foods, and foods with vitamin C.

For more information, visit the Genesee County Health Departments site here or the Department of Environmental Equality here.

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