Blog

Written by Marsha Basloe, CCSA President

My children were born in the late ‘70s, and I remember as a young parent having discussions with our realtor about whether there was lead in the paint of the very old house we were buying. Almost all houses built before 1970, at least in the U.S., contain some form of lead paint. The house we were buying was built much before 1970, and it was clear that we would have to sand and paint every room, change the plumbing and all the good things that come with owning an old home. And fortunately, we did all of that over time, very carefully.

I will admit, however, that I do not remember if lead testing was one of the many conversations I had with our pediatrician about the health and safety of our children. Today, however, it is an essential conversation to have!

Lead Poisoning Today

Lead poisoning has been in the news a lot over the last few months due to the concerning levels of lead found in the water supply of child care programs and its potential impact on the health and safety of the surrounding community. Currently, North Carolina does not require testing water for lead in child care programs, unless a child is found to have elevated blood lead levels. The news has been especially alarming for parents and families who work hard to keep their children safe and on a path to reach their fullest potential. Lead in the public water supply threatens that daily charge.

This issue is not only an issue specific to child care programs: An estimated 10 million Americans get drinking water from pipes that are at least partially lead.

Young Children are the Most at Risk

Young children are especially at risk of harm from lead. Babies and young children’s bodies are still developing and are in a critical life stage for brain development. When they are exposed to lead from water or other sources, it enters directly into the bloodstream where it can harm developing organs, muscles and bones. Infants who rely on formula get 100% of their nutritional intake from water. If that water is tainted with lead, they get an enormous dose of it compared with older children and adults.

Research shows there really is no safe level of lead exposure for a child. Even at the lowest levels of exposure, lead can reduce IQ and harm a child’s ability to concentrate and focus in school. These effects are permanent and can affect a child’s education, health outcomes and long-term earning potential.

Lead poisoning is preventable by identifying lead before children are harmed. The most important step that parents, teachers and others can take is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs. The North Carolina Commission for Public Health is proposing a change to a child care sanitation regulation that will significantly reduce exposure to lead for some of the youngest and most vulnerable children in our state. With U.S. Environment Protection Agency grant money to pay for the first round of testing, North Carolina can work to make drinking water safer for infants and young children without adding to child care costs.

Prevention: The Proposed Child Care Sanitation rule

We all know that prevention is the best medicine. The proposed child care sanitation rule is an example of a good preventative approach to lead exposure. The following requirements included in the proposed rule will help ensure that it protects children from potential lead in child care drinking and food prep water:

Testing for lead in drinking and food prep water every three years – Lead levels in water can fluctuate over time. Changes in water source or chemistry can cause leaching of lead from pipes into water, increasing water lead levels.[1] This is what led to the Flint water crisis. Additionally, unforeseen plumbing problems such as a dirty aerator or a partial clog can release lead from pipes into drinking and food prep water. Finally, improper maintenance of filters by child care operators can decrease the effectiveness of mitigation measures taken to prevent lead exposure.

Testing all buildings despite age – Buildings constructed after the 1986 Lead Ban may still pose a significant risk of lead contamination in drinking and food prep water. The ban, effective as of 1988, defined “lead free” as materials containing less than 8% lead, which allowed lead to remain in pipes that convey drinking water to homes and in fixtures and faucets in homes. An amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act, effective as of 2014, redefined “lead free to require faucets and pipes to contain less than 0.25% lead; as such buildings constructed between 1988 and 2014 can still contain plumbing and fixtures with significant lead content.”[2] Testing all buildings despite age will ensure that no building poses a considerable risk of lead exposure.

Testing all taps – The concentration of lead in one tap is not indicative of the concentration of lead in all taps in a building. Lead concentration across taps can vary because lead can originate from an individual faucet, a dirty aerator or a filter that hasn’t been changed. Therefore, it is critical to test all taps to ensure safe child care center drinking and food prep water.

What You Can Do

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has information on lead poisoning that you can read and share.

Talk with your health care provider about lead screening. Lead screening measures the level of lead in the blood through a blood test in the finger or vein. It is important. Lead is a toxin that is particularly dangerous for young children because of their small size and rapid growth and development. It can cause behavioral and learning difficulties, anemia, seizures and other medical problems. A lead test is the only way to know if your child has lead poisoning. Most children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick. Talk to your doctor about this.

Child Care Services Association (CCSA) provides free referral services to families seeking child care, technical assistance to child care businesses and educational scholarships and salary supplements to child care professionals through the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood®, Child Care WAGE$® and Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$ Programs. Through the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood National Center, CCSA licenses its successful programs to states across the country and provides consultation to others addressing child care concerns. Ensuring that every young child can grow and learn in a healthy and safe learning environment is central to our mission.

CCSA supports the adoption of this rule that would protect thousands of babies and children from lead exposure in child care drinking and food prep water. Additionally, requiring cost-effective mitigation where elevated lead water levels are found will have the added benefit of getting rid of other harmful toxicants such as copper and chlorine by-products.

In North Carolina, public health officials have been working for more than 30 years to eliminate childhood lead poisoning, and have come very close to doing so. Childhood blood lead levels have dropped dramatically population-wide. Unfortunately, some pockets of high exposure remain. Ending lead exposure in drinking and food prep water is an important step to move us toward the goal of no lead exposure for our state’s young children. The proposed amendment will help get us there.

The best way to protect kids from lead exposure is to be proactive about getting rid of lead, rather than waiting for a child to be found with elevated levels in their blood. To do so, we must be willing to get rid of toxic lead in children’s environments. This rule will help us do just that. You can show your support of this rule and submit your comment to the North Carolina Commission for Public Health by August 2, 2019.

Below, are more resources on lead poisoning.

Support Child Care Services Association’s work to ensure the first five years for all North Carolina’s children are happy and healthy. Make a donation today.


[1] For detailed scientific information about how changes in water chemistry can affect levels of lead found in water, see: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5353852/.

[2] EPA, Use of Lead Free Pipes, Fittings, Fixtures, Solder and Flux for Drinking Water, https://www.epa.gov/dwstandardsregulations/use-lead-free-pipes-fittings-fixtures-solder-and-flux-drinking-water (accessed 3 March 2019).

Written by Marsha Basloe, President of CCSA

It’s summer in North Carolina and it’s hot! Did you know that North Carolina is ranked 6th compared to all other states for child related deaths due to being left in a hot car? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the temperature inside a car (even with the windows cracked) can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes.[1] A child’s body overheats 3-5 times faster than an adult body and as a result, even for a short period of time, it is not safe to leave a young child alone in a car.

The majority of cases in which a child has died from a heat related car death involve a parent who unknowingly has forgotten an infant or toddler in the car. It might be that the parent has had a change in routine and inadvertently forgets that a child is asleep in a rear-facing car seat where the child can’t be seen or heard or that a caregiver has become distracted or is tired and accidently forgets. 

Source: KidsAndCars.org

In 2018, throughout the country, a record-setting 52 young children died from heat related car deaths in 2018.[2] 

In North Carolina, 35 young children have died after being left in hot cars since 1990,[3] the most recent involved the death of a 10-month old infant in May in Winston-Salem.[4]

Nearly 90% of child deaths in hot cars occur among children under age three.[5] To date this year, throughout the country, 21 children have died as a result of vehicular heat stroke,[6] the most recent death occurred earlier last week in Richmond, Virginia.[7]

We can prevent these tragedies. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched the Where’s Baby? Look Before You Lock campaign to get the message out to all parents, grandparents and other caregivers to be alert about the harmful and potentially fatal effects of leaving children in hot vehicles.

SAFETY TIPS:

  • NEVER leave a child in a vehicle unattended
  • Make it a habit to look in the back seat EVERY time you exit the car
  • ALWAYS lock the car and put the keys out of reach
  • If you see a child left in an unattended vehicle, call 911 and get help immediately

Kids and hot cars can be a deadly combination. Don’t take the chance and always “Look Before You Lock.”

CONGRESSIONAL CALL TO ACTION:

Several bills (H.R. 3593 and S. 1601, the Hot Cars Act of 2019) are pending in Congress to require the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue a rule requiring that all new cars be equipped with a child safety alert system (as well as a study recommending ways to retrofit current cars to ensure that young children are protected).

H.R. 3593 is under committee consideration in the House. S. 1601 has been approved in committee and is pending on the Senate calendar. If we can have a seatbelt reminder in cars, we can certainly have a reminder to check the backseat for young children.

There are steps we all can take to ensure that children are safe. We can double check the backseat always before locking the car. However, we can also urge our North Carolina Congressional delegation to cosponsor the Hot Cars Act and urge its passage.

It only takes a few seconds to dial the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Representative in the House or your Senator. If you aren’t sure who represents you, every state has two Senators. In North Carolina, Senator Richard Burr and Senator Thom Tillis represent us all regardless of which county we live in.

To find out who represents you in the House, click here and enter your zip code. The message is simple: In the Senate, ask that each Senator cosponsor S. 1601, the Hot Cars Act, to help prevent the death of young children in hot cars. In the House, ask that your Representative cosponsor H.R. 3593, the Hot Cars Act, to help prevent the death of young children in hot cars. And, then, ask them to support passage of the bill this year. It’s that simple!

Together, we can make a difference for children!


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Heat and Infants and Children. https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/children.html

[2] KidsandCars.Org, https://www.kidsandcars.org/how-kids-get-hurt/heat-stroke/

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] http://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Heatstroke-fact-sheet-2019.pdf

[6] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/child-safety#topic-heatstroke

[7] https://wtvr.com/2019/07/16/britannia-road-hot-car/