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First draft of Mrs. Bell’s needs assessment

5a. Needs Assessment

Lead poisoning is a significant threat to our children’s development – especially here in the Greater New Orleans area.

What exactly is lead poisoning? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • “Lead poisoning affects virtually every system in the body, and often occurs with no distinctive symptoms.
  • Even low levels of lead are harmful and are associated with impaired neurobehavioral development, decreased intelligence, decreased stature and growth, and impaired hearing acuity.
  • Lead can damage a child's central nervous system, kidneys, and reproductive system and, at higher levels, can cause coma, convulsions, and death.” [1]

Decades ago, the CDC recognized the dangers of lead poisoning to our children and they helped to initiate federal activities to reduce lead in gasoline. The elimination of lead from gasoline has significantly reduced the number of children that have high lead levels in their blood -- from 88.2% of children in the late 1970s to 4.4% in the early 1990s according to the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). [2]

But 4.4% is still a large number. The CDC estimates that one million children under the age of 6 have blood lead levels high enough to affect their development, intelligence and behavior. [3] Where is this lead still coming from? It comes primarily from lead based house paint.

Although lead can no longer be added to paint, over 80% of all homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint in them. [4] Older paint that is peeling generates lead dust. Children under three are particularly at risk because infants have a lot of hand to mouth activity. CDC studies suggest that the risk for high lead blood levels is greatest among children who are African American or Mexican American, from low-income families, living in large metropolitan areas, or living in housing built before 1946. [5]

The CDC advocates neighborhood-based efforts as the most effective means to combat this problem. Neighborhood-based organizations can effectively create community awareness about the problem, ensure that children living in older houses get screened for lead-poisoning, and assist children who need it to get appropriate medical treatment and environmental clean-up.

The Central City neighborhood has a very high proportion of housing units built before 1950.

Percent of housing units built before 1950 in the Central City neighborhood compared to the parish, state and nation

Housing age (2000)
Central
City
Orleans
Parish
Louisiana
United
States
Total housing units (sample count)
10,242
215,091
1,847,181
115,904,641
Built 1949 or earlier (%)
51.8%
43.2%
15.5%
22.3%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau. Census 2000 Sample Characteristics (SF3). From a compilation by the GNO Community Data Center. <http://www.gnocdc.org>

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  1. “CDC’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Online. Available http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/factsheets/leadfcts.htm. 5/31/02.
  2. “CDC’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Online. Available http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/factsheets/leadfcts.htm. 5/31/02.
  3. “CDC’s Lead Fact Sheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Online. Available http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/about/about.htm. 5/31/02.
  4. “What Every Parent Should Know about Lead Poisoning in Children.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Online. Available http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/faq/cdc97a.htm 5/31/02.
  5. “Update: blood lead levels -- United States, 1991-1994”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MMWR – Weekly Feb 1997/46(07);141-146. Online. Available http://www.cdc.gov/epo/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00048339.htm. 5/31/02.

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Last modified: May 16, 2002