January 31, 2012
To: Education Committee
From: Aubrey Mancuso, Policy CoordinatorRE: Support for LB 1038 to require blood-lead testing prior to school enrollment
Voices for Children supports LB 1038 to require testing for elevated blood lead levels prior to school enrollment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that states develop lead screening policies focusing on one and two year old children based on other risk factors including geography. Elevated blood lead levels are associated with increased behavioral problems, malnutrition, and physical and cognitive development issues. Because of these associated risks, it is important that elevated blood levels are identified so treatment can be provided.
If children have had limited access to quality health care services early in life, they may not have been tested prior to school enrollment even if they have associated risk factors. School enrollment provides a moment of opportunity to ensure this testing happens. In 2010, 24,028, or only about 5 percent of all Nebraska children were tested for blood lead levels. Of those, 172 were found to have elevated levels. Although these numbers are not large, the consequences for these children can be significant and can go undetected if the children are never tested.
We focus a significant amount of attention on teachers and school administrators to facilitate successful outcomes for students, but rarely think about how to address the other factors in a student’s life that influence his or her ability to learn. This bill takes a step in that direction by identifying one issue that impacts a child’s ability to learn.
Although we support LB 1038, we do have a suggestion for how the bill could be improved. The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines suggest that children found to have elevated levels should receive follow-up care from a doctor and be referred to the Public Health Department to ensure that any ongoing environmental and health risks, in addition to educational issues, are addressed.
We urge you to advance this bill. Thank you.