Recently the University of Washington Superfund Research Program helped develop an eLearning Module for health professionals titled “Pediatric Lead Exposure: Diagnosis, Management and Prevention” which can be taken for continuing education credit. The module was created in partnership with the Northwest Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units and the Panhandle Health District to raise awareness about risks associated with lead exposure and to promote lead medical surveillance in the Bunker Hill Superfund Site area, within Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene River Basin. On January 23rd the training was presented as a live webinar with question and answer session in Kellogg, Idaho. To date, the training has been used by over 50 participants, most of whom are public health professionals. All who participated demonstrated increased knowledge, and those who completed an evaluation indicated that the quality of the training was very high. The on-demand training is available at the NW PEHSU website. In addition, NW PEHSU was recently funded by Washington Department of Health to promote pediatric lead screening via trainings for clinicians in Washington State.
Lead is known to lower IQ and contribute to behavioral problems. Before the Environmental Protection Agency added Idaho’s Bunker Hill Superfund site to its National Priorities List in 1983 and began concerted clean-up, 99% of children in the area were found to have blood lead levels higher than 40 micrograms per deciliter (mg/dL) and some as high as 164 mg/dL. The Center for Disease Control recommends taking steps to limit lead exposure when blood levels reach 5 mg/dL, but no amount of lead exposure is considered safe. Unfortunately, decades of mining, smeltering, and milling combined with poor pollution control had contaminated the soils and drinking water of the Silver Valley area in Idaho and eastern Washington. Education about lead medical surveillance is an important piece of keeping communities safe from lead poisoning.
The Panhandle Health District runs a pediatric lead surveillance program for affected communities and encourages families to have their children tested. Testing can be arranged by calling 208-783-0707. More information is available on the Panhandle Health District website.