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Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health today announced the launch of Lead-Free Families, a 10-year community health improvement initiative aimed at eliminating childhood lead poisoning in Lancaster County.

Lead-Free Families will identify and remediate lead hazards in at least 2,800 Lancaster County homes over the next decade. With a $50 million investment by Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, the comprehensive program is the first of its kind in the United States to be initially funded and led by a health system.

“We are committed to reaching beyond the walls of our hospital and doctor’s offices to make Lancaster County the healthiest place to live, work and play,” said Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health CEO John J. Herman, MBA, FACHE. “Much of our health is determined by other factors in our environment – even in our home.

“Lead in the home is a serious and dangerous health issue – especially for young children,” he added. “That’s why we are excited to launch the Lead-Free Families initiative to help bring an end to the silent epidemic of childhood lead poisoning here in Lancaster County.”

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Lead exposure and poisoning is a significant health issue among children in Lancaster County, which has the fourth-highest rate of lead poisoning in Pennsylvania. There is no cure for lead poisoning, according to Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Chief Clinical Officer Michael R. Ripchinski, M.D.

Lead poisoning can result in serious and lifelong health and developmental issues, including lower IQ, slowed growth, learning problems, behavioral issues, hyperactivity, and hearing and speech development problems. It can also cause pregnancy problems, including low birth weight; premature birth; damage to the baby’s brain, kidneys and nervous system; and even miscarriage.

“Once it’s in your system, you can’t get it out, and the mental and physical effects are irreversible,” Ripchinski said. “What is most insidious about lead poisoning is that it hurts young children – either through a lead-poisoned mother or through their own exposure.

“And most children with detectable levels of lead in their blood have no obvious symptoms,” he added. “That’s why it is so important that every child between the ages of 9 months and 3 years old be tested for lead in their blood.”

Increased blood lead screening of children and pregnant people is one of the core components of Lead-Free Families. The program’s other services, which are offered across Lancaster County, include:

  • lead screening;
  • testing homes for lead;
  • in-home lead remediation;
  • home visits with healthcare and social service support;
  • community education and outreach; and
  • public policy advocacy and education

“This disease may not be curable, but we know it is 100-percent preventable,” said Carolyn Scanlan, chairperson of the Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Board of Trustees. “Lead-Free Families will work to do just that through increased screening, testing and remediating homes across the county.

“But we also know we can’t eliminate lead poisoning on our own,” she continued. “We will work with our community partners to increase awareness of this serious health issue. Because we know it takes a village to build healthier and safer communities.

For more information on Lead-Free Families, or to apply for the program, visit LeadFreeFamilies.org, or call 717-544-LEAD (5323).

About Lead-Free Families

Lead-Free Families is a community health improvement initiative of Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health focused on eliminating childhood lead poisoning in Lancaster County, which has the fourth-highest rate of lead poisoning in Pennsylvania. Lead-Free Families is the first comprehensive childhood lead poisoning prevention program in the United States to be initially funded entirely by a health system. Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health is committed to removing lead health hazards from at least 2,800 homes across the county over 10 years.


 
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