It is pleasing to read that lead testing has been in the news lately. For some time, I have been quietly lobbying the government to take the lead issue seriously.
Poisoning by lead has long been known to affect the neurological development of children. A child exposed to lead can develop any number of health problems, including diminished ability to learn. These children then risk becoming a drain on the health care system, education system, and evidence suggests the justice system as well. The effects of lead exposure are well documented, yet can be halted and reversed if detected in time.
Identifying lead in water pipes as a possible route of exposure is an important development. However, there are many other sources of lead in the environment, all with the same potential to poison. Some recent high profile toy recalls revealed that some countries may have lax standards for lead content in products which are then imported and sold in Canada. If it's made for kids, it's going to end up in their bodies through skin exposure and ingestion. New evidence suggests that lead may be harmful at even lower levels than existing standards permit.
Everybody has heard the dangers of lead paint, a very real hazard in "old" communities such as Chatham-Kent. Use of leaded gasoline for decades has created a lead residue in our soil, affecting some play areas and vegetable gardens. Adults are also at risk, sometimes testing positive for high lead levels without ever finding the source. Diminished academic performance, mysterious illnesses, or anti-social behaviour are all indicators of elevated lead levels.
The solution is a public lead testing program, maybe in conjunction with vaccinations. Lead will show up in blood tests, but hair analysis can chart historical exposure better, without needles. Such preventative testing should be part of our public health policy and could save untold tax dollars and personal suffering if implemented. Any child exhibiting possible symptoms should have immediate access to free testing. Positive impacts would be noticed across the health care and educational system. Ontario could be at the forefront of the progressive prevention of a devastating illness that is hard to detect visually yet can injure its victims for life and be very costly to society.
To date,no response has been received from any government member despite several attempts to voice concerns. It is noteworthy that the current initiative to test lead in municipal water systems was sparked by pressure from the opposition benches. Let's hope that all parties in the legislature start recognizing the need to take immediate action and include creative solutions in their respective election platforms. Until then, Chatham-Kent could demonstrate leadership by exploring policy ideas to test for lead in water, homes, soil, and people, without waiting for orders from the province.