Many Texas children enrolled in Medicaid are not getting tested for lead exposure, study shows

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HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — As first reported by our partners at the Houston Chronicle, a study recently released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows many children enrolled in Medicaid are missing out on required blood lead tests.

Exposure to lead is especially harmful to children as it can cause developmental delays and learning disabilities.

“That may result in some kind of cognitive impairment and oftentimes, the impairment is irreversible,” explained Dr. Denae King with Texas Southern University.

King is working to educate communities about the dangers of lead exposure. She said there is no “safe level” of lead and though it is especially important for children not to be exposed, the element is toxic for everyone.

“If your home was built before 1970, it is likely that the home has some lead paint and may also still have lead pipes in it,” King explained.

A report recently released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found more than half of children enrolled in Medicaid in Texas did not receive the required blood lead test at 12 months old, nearly 70% did not receive it at age 2, and 34% of children continuously enrolled in Medicaid by the age of 3 were never tested.

“If you’re in this area, I advise you if you have Medicaid, go get your babies tested because this is serious. Once lead is in your body, you are contaminated,” said longtime Fifth Ward resident, Sandra Edwards.

This is an issue Edwards is passionate about. She is part of a team that goes door-to-door every Thursday to teach her neighbors about the toxic element that could be causing serious problems for their children.

“If we don’t talk about it and explain and educate people that this is what’s going on, especially in your community, you would never know. I want them to know. This is why I do what I do,” explained Edwards.

King said in order to solve the problem, more parents need to be educated about the risks, more kids need to be tested for exposure and funds are needed – especially in communities like Fifth Ward.

“The homes in some of our people of color communities are less likely to be updated and remediated so we need to really prioritize if we are able to get funding to work on lead that we work in those communities that need it most,” said King.

For more information on the City of Houston’s lead abatement program, click visit the city’s website..

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