Protecting Our Children from Lead Poisoning
Decades ago, we learned about the health issues caused by lead. We acted to remove it from fuel and paint. But lead poisoning in children persists. This toxin still lurks in our homes and communities. CLF is working to strengthen New Hampshire laws to end this preventable problem for good.
CLF in Action
To address childhood lead poisoning, we need to take two critical steps: improve screening and, most importantly, prevent children from being poisoned in the first place. In New Hampshire, CLF has spearheaded advocacy efforts to craft statewide legislation to meet these needs. In 2022, we helped pass a law that created a significantly more protective standard for lead in drinking water at schools and daycare facilities. With our partners, we have also collaborated to identify urgent solutions at the community level.
Today, much of our work centers on the City of Manchester, where the number of children suffering to lead poisoning is alarming. Here, CLF and our partners pushed the city to create a commission to prevent childhood lead poisoning. The commission serves an essential role in identifying strategies to reduce lead hazards and better protect Manchester children.
What’s at Stake
According to the Centers for Disease Control, any exposure to lead can have dangerous consequences for children. Even at low levels, lead exposure can cause irreversible health problems when left untreated – including IQ deficits and cognitive and behavioral issues – robbing children of achieving their full potential. While this problem hits low-income and communities of color the hardest, it affects children across all demographics throughout New England.
In New Hampshire, approximately 500 new cases of lead poisoning get diagnosed each year. While alarming, that number barely captures the full scope of the problem. Since very few children get tested – only about 20% of those considered at the highest risk of exposure – this problem likely goes underreported.
The lifelong health impacts those children will experience are troubling enough. But a New Hampshire report revealed that the long-term costs go beyond the individual child. The report estimated that childhood lead poisoning will lose our community as much as $345 million in collective lifetime earnings every year. The costs for special education, medical treatment, and crime linked to lead exposure add up to millions of dollars more in economic impact.