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Concerns Over Funding Cut for NH Lead Poisoning Prevention

October 30, 2009

CONCORD, NH - Recent cuts to the state's Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP) are generating concern among members of the medical and prevention community. They say children continue to be exposed to lead paint poisoning in New Hampshire. Most old homes built before 1978 contain some form of lead paint, and prior to 1950, it was the norm, which means many structures still contain lead. The governor's decision to cut some of CLPPP funding is concerning Dr. James Sargent, professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.

"It's not as big a problem as it was five or ten years ago, but it's still an issue. There still are kids who are exposed, especially kids who live in poor neighborhoods. In fact, kids can die from very high exposure and the last kid to die in the U.S. from lead paint poisoning was from Manchester, New Hampshire.

Dr. Sargent says lead can damage the kidneys and cause neurological disorders. While some say lead poisoning is no longer an issue in the state, Dr. Sargent says it's difficult to put a price tag on a child's health.

"There's real concern in the public health community that the state is being short-sighted in removing funds from a program that is actually preventing kids from getting learning disabilities later on."

Mary Sliney is executive director for The Way Home in Manchester, a non-profit agency that focuses on matching low-income families with safe and affordable housing. She says cuts to the program are a major concern for her agency.

"It's a short-term savings that results in more children becoming lead poisoned, and has a long-term financial impact. It sets us back ten years."

Chipping, flaking or cracking lead paint is a known hazard for children. The Lead Poisoning Prevention Program provides inspections of homes and buildings as well as blood testing for children affected by lead. According to the State Employees Union, three of the state's four inspectors received pink slips last week, and the state will no longer provide blood screenings for children. More information is available at www.dhhs.nh.gov.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH