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Great news to report: blood lead levels are on the decline in the nation’s capital! In 2009, DC had 462 kids under six years of age with a blood lead level identified at five micrograms of lead or more per deciliter of blood. In 2010, that number decreased to 416; and then to 337 in 2011. This is a great success story for the District, which not long ago had well-publicized problems related to lead poisoning.
As impressive as the decline is, the DDOE Lead and Healthy Housing Division (LHHD) team is well aware that lead poisoning continues to be a serious environmental threat to our most vulnerable citizens. LHHD continues to work proactively to reduce the risk of lead exposure in the District and maintains a strong presence with cutting edge screening technology, making the blood lead testing process painless and efficient. The District benefits from one of the nation’s best primary prevention laws, allowing for proactive inspections and the broad dissemination of tenant rights. Enforcement is also key, and LHHD inspectors are highly visible in the community keeping properties and neighborhoods safe.
Although the focus is prevention, LHHD also takes swift action to ensure that homes that are known to have poisoned kids in the past can never poison another child.
DDOE is also busy working closely with several sister agencies to ensure daycares are safe, as well as schools, libraries, and other places where kids can be found.
All this good work resulted in recognition for LHHD at both the national and regional level, with a Lead Star Award being presented to the District’s lead program at the 2011 national conference on lead and healthy homes, and written congratulations for “exemplary work and a stellar year” from EPA Region 3. 2012 is off to a great start, with invitations for all 3 LHHD managers to participate in the annual national conference, including as a keynote speaker at the kickoff plenary session. The future looks promising for a lead-safe District.