Legislators push mandatory lead screening

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A House committee is recommending mandatory screenings of toddlers for lead poisoning.

Under a bill passed by the House Human Services Committee Friday, children would be tested twice, at ages 1 and 2, starting in 2009.

Lead, which is present in paint compounds made before 1978, can be toxic in small amounts, affecting immune systems and physical and brain development, especially in children.

Lead can be released when old paint is sanded or scraped, or by opening and closing painted doors and windows.

Chris Finley, deputy commissioner for public health, says 79 percent of all 1-year-olds and 41 percent of 2-year-olds are screened for lead levels. The department would have wanted to achieve voluntary screening of 75 percent of 2-year-olds by 2010 but lawmakers wanted to move faster.

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