Russo Park Lead Screening Program to feature "Sounds of Afrika"


Image: Afrika"Sounds of Afrika," an Afrikan Dance and Drum troupe that promotes Afrikan and Afrikan-American Culture in communities and schools, will be on hand to add a festive air to the Health Promotion Center's lead screening program on Tuesday, May 23, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Russo Park (at the corner of Park and Washington Avenues). Sounds of Afrika will perform from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the event which is marking May as Lead Awareness Month.

The Health Promotion Center, run by the Fairfield University School of Nursing, is directed by Philip Greiner, DNSc. The Center's Health Screening and Lead Outreach Project is conducted by Mary Ross, MSN, who says lead poisoning is a health risk about which the public needs to be better informed. Like hypertension, lead poisoning is a silent health problem that too often manifests itself only once damage has been done.

"Young children absorb lead more readily than do adults," she explained, "and it doesn't take much exposure, through inhalation and ingestion of lead dust or particles to cause a problem." One two-and-a-half-year-old who was tested by the Health Promotion Center became poisoned simply by playing with his truck in a window well that was loaded with lead paint.

"Since the body cannot use lead," Ross said, "it gets deposited where it damages the developing nervous system, bones and kidneys. It has been implicated in the development of learning disabilities and mental retardation." Studies have also linked lead poisoning in childhood to criminal behavior later in life.

Adults are also at risk, with lead poisoning contributing to, among other things, high blood pressure and damage to the reproductive organs. People who work in construction, demolition, painting, with batteries, radiator repair shops, and lead factories can expose themselves as well as their families to the risk if they are not properly trained in how to protect themselves. Such workers can bring lead home on their clothing, thus poisoning not only themselves but their children.

One woman tested by the Center unwittingly poisoned herself with lead that was contained in the red paint that was on pills called Koo-sar she bought in Chinatown in New York City and San Francisco to treat menstrual cramps.

In cities like Bridgeport, where 90 percent of the houses were built before 1960, the lead load is particularly high, Ross noted. "Children living in houses built before 1960 are at risk for breathing in lead dust from deteriorating paint or of ingesting lead in chipped paint. They may also inadvertently play in soil that contains lead remaining from emissions from gasoline that contained lead."

With lead poisoning affecting 16 percent of children under the age of six in Bridgeport, Ross recommends that parents bring their children for testing on May 23. "It can be done simply through a fingerstick," she said and suggests that all children under the age of six, living in Bridgeport, be screened annually. Families who cannot make it to the Russo Park event for testing, may call the Health Promotion Center, at (203) 335-6751, for an appointment.

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

Posted on May 6, 2000

Vol. 32, No. 341