By Leon Bethune

The Boston Public Health Commission’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program would like you to celebrate National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week with us from October 23 to October 29, in conjunction with the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. The theme for this year is LEAD FREE KIDS!

We’ve made great strides in decreasing the number of children who are affected in Boston, but we still have a way to go to completely end lead poisoning.

So this week, we want you to take some time to think about your environment. Parents with young children can ask if homes, daycares, and schools are safe from lead-based paint hazards, as well as other dangers like tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide, and the risk of injuries.

You can also get help from the Boston Public Health Commission to evaluate your home for these environmental health hazards.

Lead-based paint still remains as one of the major environmental health hazards in homes that were built before 1978. In my tenure as Environmental Health Director, I have found that numerous times throughout the year we are faced with a young child who lives in a home that was renovated unsafely by a contractor and either becomes poisoned or has an elevated blood-lead level after being exposed to lead dust.

To keep this from happening, we work to educate families about the Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule. On April 22, 2010, the EPA implemented the RRP Rule to ensure contractors are educated about the risks. I urge you to study this rule, especially when hiring a contractor to renovate your home. Check to make sure the contractor has the proper license and he or she should provide you (and your tenant if you are a landlord) with pre-renovation education; use interior and exterior contaminant procedures to prevent the spread of lead dust from the work area and adjacent properties; provide proper cleanup; and use a HEPA vacuum, a wet mopping system, cleaning verification, and proper disposal of the waste.

Lead exposure is preventable. If you live in a home built before 1978, make sure you have your home tested. If you have children under the age of six, please get them tested, as well. Be proactive about lead prevention to ensure that your child is healthy and avoids the serious repercussions of lead poisoning. If you have questions or want more information, call BPHC at (617) 534-5395 or click here.

I want to thank our Lead Poisoning Prevention staff who remain committed to making Boston the first major city to end childhood lead poisoning. I would also like to recognize and thank our collaborative partners who are doing great work throughout the city of Boston in the fight to reduce childhood lead poisoning. They are the Department of Neighborhood Development, Homeowner Services, Lead Safe Boston Program, the Lead Action Collaborative of Health Resources in Action, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and the Inspectional Services Department’s Housing Division.

Let’s celebrate our achievement this week, and continue to provide all residents of the city of Boston with a lead safe environment.

Leon is the Director of the Environmental Health Division in our Community Initiatives Bureau.