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Bill Would Add to Newborn Health Screenings

A bill in the Pennsylvania Senate would bolster the state's newborn health screening law by adding a test for congenital heart disease. Sponsoring Senator Daylin Leach said the test takes only three minutes and costs one dollar, but has the potential to save the lives of newborns with congenital heart disease.

Leach said the test measures the oxygen levels in a child's blood, which can help determine if they're at risk for the disease. If that is the case, Leach said doctors will be able to intervene faster, as the condition is often otherwise undetectable.

When introducing the bill to the Senate Public Health & Welfare Committee, Leach cited a report stating that one in every 120 children is born with congenital heart disease. The Montgomery County Democrat said it results in more deaths than any other birth defect.

He said the issue was brought to his attention by a woman in his district, whose child died of congenital heart failure. Leach said the state currently tests for six birth defects, and the bill would simply increase that by one.