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Pittsburgh's history of lead in our water, paint, and soil continues to have enormous repercussions for the area's public health. Hidden Poison is a series on lead problems and solutions, reported by public media partners 90.5 WESA News, Allegheny Front, PublicSource, and Keystone Crossroads. Read more at our website: hiddenpoison.org.

Lead Task Force Makes Recommendations To Fight Childhood Lead Exposure

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Gene J. Puskar
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AP Photo
Steam rises from the rooftops of homes in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Upper Lawrenceville was identified as a high-risk neighborhood for lead by the Allegheny County Lead Task Force.

The Allegheny County Lead Task Force has released a series of recommendations with the goal of minimizing childhood lead exposure. 

The group proposes working with community groups in at-risk areas to educate the public on the dangers of lead, particularly for young children.

McKeesport, Mt. Washington and Upper Lawrenceville were among the neighborhoods identified as at-risk based on the abundance of old houses and lead paint.

"Any community that has a high volume of housing stock built before 1978 and then on top of that where there's high poverty issues, those are some of the most critical areas," County Health Director Karen Hacker said.

The task force also recommends increasing awareness of the Allegheny Lead Safe Homes program, which provides free lead hazard remediation for some at-risk families. The 2018 county budget allows for two additional lead inspectors to be hired, who will do home lead investigations for at-risk families.

Hacker said getting rid of all lead in an environment is impossible, as it's naturally occurring.

"But we can certainly do everything we can to eliminate what we consider to be harmful exposure," she said.

Lead is particularly dangerous for children and pregnant women as it can stunt the brain during development, leading to behavior and learning problems

Efforts to catch high lead levels in kids have been in the works for some time, and by Jan. 1, blood-lead tests will be mandatory for children between 9 and 12 months of age, and again at two years.

The task force was charged with finding solutions to the region's lead problem in May by county leadership. The full report can be found here.