Fairfield University School of Nursing and the Connecticut Department of Public Health introduce Lead Free Families Program in the East End of Bridgeport


Image: Lead Free Families Program

Lead poisoning is a serious problem in children that, if undiscovered, can cause lasting effects, including difficulty learning, behavior problems and hearing loss. The Fairfield University School of Nursing is working with the Connecticut Department of Public Health Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program and the East End Community Council to address the issue of lead poisoning in children who live in the East End of Bridgeport through an initiative called Lead Free Families.

Lead Free Families is a free program that is open to any East End family with young children. The program, funded by the state Department of Public Health and administered by Fairfield University's School of Nursing Health Promotion Center, offers lead testing of children, with follow-up provided to the family. Follow-up includes an explanation of the results of the test and a home visit to discuss potential lead hazards and how to reduce those hazards. Families are also offered samples of cleaning products useful for reducing lead hazards, as well as foods that are high in calcium and iron. The lead testing and follow-up is performed by Health Promotion Center staff, community outreach workers, and students in the Fairfield University School of Nursing.

The major source of lead is paint that was used on homes built before 1978. The toxin gets into children's bodies when they breathe in or swallow the dust from the deteriorated paint. It is particularly dangerous for young children because they are growing rapidly and absorb lead more easily than adults do. The many older homes in Bridgeport put the area at particular risk.

"We can't see, taste, or smell lead," said Lydia Greiner, manager of Community services at the Health Promotion Center. "The only way to tell if a child has lead is by a blood test."

The screenings require a simple finger stick test, which takes a very small blood sample. The Health Promotion Center staff will then follow up with the parents of any child found to have an elevated lead count.

Lead Free Families regularly conducts free lead screenings in the community. The next three screenings, which are free and open to the public, will take place on Wednesday, April 7, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at Jesus Saves Ministry, 510 Wilmot Avenue; Friday, April 16, from 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon at Waltersville Family Resource Center, 95 Gilmore Street; and Wednesday, April 21, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at Jesus Saves Ministry.

Lead Free Families also provides educational programs to warn children and their parents about the dangers of lead. Health Promotion Center community outreach worker Pearlye Sams Allen will conduct read-aloud days at the elementary schools in the East End that will feature the story "Henry and Fred Learn About Lead." The Center will also hold screenings at McKinley and Dunbar schools at the end of April to coincide with report card conference days. Parents and children can hear Miss Pearlye read "Henry and Fred Learn about Lead" at the Newfield Library on Saturday, April 3, at 3:30 p.m.

To find out about the free community screenings, or to schedule one for your church or community group, call (203) 335-6751. Lead Free Families will also provide lead education programs to community groups at no charge. Funding for the Lead Free Families Program is provided by the Connecticut Department of Public Health through grant funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on March 24, 2004

Vol. 36, No. 225