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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Less than a third of toddlers on Medicaid in the state were tested for lead poisoning last year, despite a federal rule that requires all children on the social health care program to be tested, a Wisconsin Department of Health Services report says.

Children on Medicaid, the health program for the poor, are at a higher risk for lead poisoning because they’re more likely to live in older homes with lead paint, the Wisconsin State Journal reported .

The report found that 32 percent of children ages 1 and 2 on Medicaid were tested for lead poisoning in 2016, down from 42 percent of such children getting tested in 2014. The federal government has required lead testing since 1992.

“We’re missing a lot of kids,” said Dr. Beth Neary, who is on the steering committee of the Wisconsin Environmental Health Network. “We’re missing a lot of opportunities to prevent further poisoning and to intervene.”

Five percent of all children tested in the state last year had high lead levels. Doctors say lead poisoning can cause developmental problems.

The state health department is working to raise awareness about the importance of blood lead testing, said Elizabeth Goodsitt, spokeswoman for the department.

The state sent report cards from 2006 to 2011 to doctors with Medicaid patients with details about which of their patients had been tested. The reports helped increase testing rates, the health department said.

The practice stopped after 2011 because Congress cut funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s lead poisoning prevention program, Goodsitt said.

The CDC’s grant to the state was reinstated in September 2014. The health department resumed the report cards in November 2016, Goodsitt said.

Neary said the return of the cards may begin boosting testing rates.

Young children frequently put their hands in their mouths so their blood lead levels are typically the highest, the health department said.


Information from: Wisconsin State Journal,