Predictive risk mapping and recommendations to mitigate childhood lead poisoning in North Carolina

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Title: Predictive risk mapping and recommendations to mitigate childhood lead poisoning in North Carolina
Author: Rodgers, Megan
Abstract: Rodgers, Megan. Master of Environmental Assessment. Predictive Risk Mapping and Recommendations to Mitigate Childhood Lead Poisoning in North Carolina Background: Research shows that exposure to lead is linked to a number of health impacts, including behavioral problems, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, reduced IQ, and learning disabilities. In July 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated the reference level from 10 μg/dL to 5 μg/dL because studies were identifying health impacts from exposure to lead at lower levels. In light of this, North Carolina followed suit in July 2017 by lowering the state action level to match the CDC’s reference level, yet childhood lead poisoning still remains an issue. Methods: In North Carolina, more than 140,000 children under six years old are tested for lead each year and focusing resources and outreach to the most highly impacted areas is a challenge. Utilizing blood lead data from the North Carolina Division of Public Health (DPH) and a number of data sets encompassing lead poisoning risk factors from the US Census Bureau, preventative risk maps were created in ArcGIS. Results: A handful of counties in North Carolina were identified as high risk, using the following factors with varying weights: pre-1950 housing, 1950-1978 housing, poverty status, renter-occupied housing, education level, percent African American and/or Hispanic, and population under six years old. The majority of counties identified as high risk for childhood lead poisoning, also show higher percentages of children, ages 6 to 35 months, with confirmed elevated blood lead levels from 2013 to 2017. Conclusions: The risk maps discussed in this paper will help inform local health departments and organizations that work to mitigate childhood lead poisoning in North Carolina. With this information, the North Carolina Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (NC CLPPP) outreach team can begin formulating plans to deposit resources and educational materials in the counties identified as high risk. Likewise, preventative methods and strategies used in counties with lower percentages of children with confirmed elevated blood lead levels can be shared with high risk counties.
Date: 2018-12

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