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EPA Administrator Meets Area Students, Discusses Lead Poisoning Prevention

Release Date: 10/28/2004
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt met with middle school students in Las Cruces, N.M., to ask them to help prevent childhood lead poisoning. October is Children's Health Month and this is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.

The Administrator explained that even at low levels, lead can affect a child's ability to learn and to control his/her behavior. He stated that by removing lead from gasoline, household paint and plumbing, EPA has been able to cut the number of affected children by 90 percent, from four million in 1978 to some 400,000 today. Leavitt told the students that was not good enough, and he enlisted their help to protect their families.

"Many of you have younger sisters and brothers," Leavitt said, holding up some tamarindo candy imported from Mexico. "As crazy as it sounds, these candy wrappers contain lead," he said. "You can protect your sisters and brothers by making sure they don't eat these candies or put the wrappers in their mouths."

Leavitt also provided copies of an EPA booklet, "Lead In Your Home; A Parent's Reference Guide," which explains how to avoid other exposures, including lead-based paint. Dust and chips from lead-based paint used in homes built before 1978 are the most common source of childhood lead poisoning. Children under the age of six are at greatest risk because the brain is developing and young children tend to ingest more lead.

Minority and low-income children are disproportionately affected by lead poisoning since they are more likely to live in pre-1978 housing containing lead-based paint.

EPA is playing a major role in addressing these residential lead hazards. This year's theme, "Shut The Door on Lead Poisoning," highlights the importance of educating parents and children about the dangers of lead-paint hazards in housing. EPA has developed many outreach and education products to reduce residential lead hazards, including brochures in several languages. EPA's rules and regulations provide further protections. For example, the Disclosure Rule requires persons selling or leasing housing constructed before 1978 to disclose known lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards during all real-estate transactions.

More information about National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week and Children's Health Month is available at