Lead Levels Prompt Meeting, Concern

About 75 people gathered at the Salina Community Theater Tuesday evening to learn a little more about an investigation into elevated blood lead levels in multiple children in Salina.

Environmental Health Officer Dr. Farah Ahmed from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment told those gathered that since January 0f 2015, through March of this year, there are 32 children ages 0 – 15 that have elevated blood lead levels.

Ahmed said that over the next several weeks the KDHE will be in the area conducting an intensive investigation to try and determine exactly where the lead is coming from. “We are doing it case by case, child by child,” she said.

Investigators will conduct in-depth interviews with the families of those effected, take samples from inside and outside their homes, and take drinking water samples.

The cases are not in one general area, but are scattered. Most are in Salina, but some are also in rural Saline County.

Lead is ingested in three different ways. It is ingested orally, through inhalation, or absorbed through the skin.  Typically an adult would come in contact with lead doing work-related activities while a child would come in contact with it primarily through lead paint.

Once inside the body, lead travels to the soft tissue then moves to the teeth and bones where it settles. Effects from lead can include:

  • Slowed Growth
  • Lower IQ
  • Learning Difficulties
  • Anemia
  • Cardiovascular Effects
  • Reduced Kidney Functions

During a question and answer session the Exide battery plant located south of Salina was discussed. A KDHE staffer said that the company has made major modifications, and emissions from the plant have been monitored since 2010. There has been a consistent trend of lead levels lower that .15, which is the acceptable level.

As Ahmed gave out stats from the past three years she conceded that the agency “needs to do a better job”.   The past several years have comparable numbers to the current 32 children with high lead lead blood levels. Those numbers are:

  • 2013 – 21 children
  • 2014 – 38 children
  • 2015 – 25 children
  • Jan 2015 through March 2016 – 32 children

Once the investigation is complete, the families will be given an individual report. A publicly available summary will also me made available.

Ahmed recommended that anyone with any concerns be tested, particularly children, women who are pregnant, and woman who are considering becoming pregnant.

The Saline County Health Department is offering free lead testing Wednesday and Thursday. There is no charge for the tests; no appointments will be necessary.  Anyone over age 6 months can be screened for lead; results may take 10 days to be processed.  The Health Department is located at 125 W Elm.

  • Screening hours on Wednesday, June 22: 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM.
  • Screening hours on Thursday, June 23: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM.
  • Go to Conference Room A, located on the West Side of the building (facing the library)