A Childhood Health Crisis in Manchester: Pair of public events to address lead poisoning

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Old peeling paint can be a source of lead poisoning. Image/City of Manchester

MANCHESTER, NH – In May 2023, Manchester Aldermen and Mayor created a commission to examine and address the problem of childhood lead poisoning in the city. In New Hampshire, the Conservation Law Foundation reports that “Nowhere is lead poisoning more prevalent than in Manchester, where  every year approximately 100 children are diagnosed with elevated levels of lead in their  blood.”

Two free public events, featuring presentations by Manchester Public Health, will be held April  9, 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Beech Street Elementary School and May 7, 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Parkside  Middle School. Presentations will introduce parents and families to the possible lead hazards in their homes, encourage early childhood testing, and explain the necessary actions and available services following a positive test.

Lead poisoning can irreversibly damage a child’s nervous system, brain, and other organs, even leading to death. Developmental and intellectual damage is permanent and has significant societal costs. The primary source of lead poisoning is lead paint found in housing built prior to 1978 when lead paint was banned from residential use. It was used extensively in the 1950s  and earlier but continued in use through the 1960s and 70s.  More than half of Manchester’s housing dates prior to 1978. The crisis affects children in all demographics but disproportionately impacts low-income families and children of color.

The Manchester Lead Exposure Prevention Commission seeks to have all children ages 1 to 6  years tested on a periodic basis. Although early childhood testing is the first defense in the crisis, the rate of testing children ages 1 to 6 years old has significantly fallen since the pandemic, and the majority of Manchester’s children in the susceptible age group are untested.

Both events are free and open to the public, and everyone concerned or interested in the  Commission’s work is encouraged to a]end. Question and answer sessions with Manchester  Public Health will follow the presentations. Refreshments will be served, and childcare will be available for families. Interpretation services will be offered.

The events are co-sponsored by the Granite State Organizing Project (GSOP) and the Unitarian  Universalist Church of Manchester. For more information and to RSVP for childcare, attendees and interested persons should call GSOP at 603-668-8250.

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Granite State Organizing Project