HONOLULU (KHON2) — Learning how to protect your keiki from lead poisoning is becoming increasingly important.

The state of Hawaiʻi has a total of 2,800 lead service lines (LSL) for water. this is in comparison to West Virginia and Missouri, which has similar populations to Hawaiʻi. These two states have 20,000 LSLs for water in each state.

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Meanwhile, Illinois, which has a population about 11x larger population than Hawaiʻi, has just under 680,000 LSLs for water, the most in the United States. Surprisingly, Hawaiʻi has the fewest LSLs of any other state.

Between Oct. 22 and Oct. 28, the State Department of Health is leading the observance of and education initiatives for National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.

“Keiki may be exposed to sources of lead in their everyday environment like lead-based paint, contaminated soil, contaminated dust, and other common products around the house,” said Dr. Ruben Frescas, chief of DOHʻs Children with Special Health Needs Branch. “Young children like to play on the ground and put their hands or other objects in their mouth, putting them at risk for swallowing or breathing in the lead in the environment around them.”

Currently, the DOH is leading the Hawaiʻi Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (HI-CLPPP) which receives funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help the community prevent children from being exposed to lead, to identify children already exposed to lead so the source can be removed and to link families to recommended services.

They have established the Hi‘ilei Developmental Screening Program. It is a free resource for keiki from birth to 5 years age. It provides developmental screenings and information for families.

Upcoming lead testing events include:

  • October 28, 11 a.m to 5 p.m. – Keiki Health Fair presented by Kōkua Lāhainā Rising, Whalers Village (2435 Kāʻanapali Parkway, Kāʻanapali, HI 96761). It offers keiki physicals, vaccines, wellness, activities, food and music. HI-CLPPP is offering free lead testing of household items.
  • October 30, 9 a.m to 12:30 p.m. – A Very Hui Halloween presented by Family Hui Hawaiʻi, Maui Nui Botanical Gardens (150 Kanaloa Avenue, Kahului, HI 96732). It offers child developmental screening, community support services, music and trick-or-treating. HI-CLPPP is offering free lead testing of household items.

Lead poisoning is a particularly relevant issue since the recent ash sampling in Kula. It was found that there are elevated levels of lead. In addition, DOH expects have indicated that the ash in Lāhainā will have a similar contaminant profile.

It is very fine and cannot be seen, making it nearly impossible to know it is there.

Lead can also be found in high traffic areas near roads since gasoline used to mixed with lead. It has contaminated soil around these areas; and since lead doesn’t break down, it continues to contaminate those areas.

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“Lead poisoning is preventable,” said Dr. Frescas. “Taking a few simple steps today can make a big difference tomorrow for the health and safety of our keiki and future generations.”