The D.C. Department of Human Resources will beging testing 1,000 children in Ward 3 this week to find out if they have high levels of lead in their blood.
The testing will be done to re-check earlier findings by the D.C. Department of Enviromental Services and the Howard University Medical School that a high percentage of about 500 children tested in that area, that includes Georgetown and Glover Park, had high lead levels in their blood.
That study seemed to contradict previous conclusions that lead poisoning primarily affects children in deterierating inner city areas who eat paint or plaster chips in old buildings that were once painted withlead-based paint.
The DES-Howard study indicated that lead poisoning may also affect children whose homes are free of lead-based paint, but who may be exposed to high lead contents in the air, especially if they live on streets with heavy traffic.
In announcing that free tests are beginning. DHR Director Albert P. Russo said. "The indications are of such gravity that we want to conduct a careful testing to see whether these new findings hold up. This is especially important because the children in the DES-howard study were only tested once and because there is some question about the qualifications of the laboratories which tested the blood samples."
In the new study, about 1,000 children from nine months through five years of age will be tested in the Georgetown, Glover Park and Cleveland Park areas. A mobile unit will be used for door-to-door canvassing and testing of children on streets where traffic is heaviest.
A stationary unit will also be parked in each neighborhood so that other children who live in those neighborhoods can be brought there for testing.
After these tests, the same children will be tested again next summer, because lead contents are usually higher in the summer. The Department of Human Resources cannot re-test the same 500 children who were tested in the DES-Howard study because the records were destroyed to protect confidentiality.
Experts say that lead accumulates in the bodies of persons exposed to excessive amounts of it, and that there is particular danger to young children. Even slightly elevated lead levels can cause illness. High levels can cause severe illness, brain damage, and even death.
Ronald Thomas,director of the city's lead poisoning prevention program, said, "We urge all parents in the area who have children in this age group to take part in the testing program so that the city and private health care providers can help to protect and treat the children who need care." Testing involves taking only a few drops of blood from the child's finger, he said.
A schedule of testing follow:
GEORGETOWN: Mobile units will be in Georgetown today through Nov. 8, and a stationary unit will be parked on O Street between Wisconsin Avenue and 33rd Street NW, for that period.
The door-to-door campaign is being conducted today through Tuesday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
GLOVER PARK: The units will be in Glover Park Wednesday through Sunday, Nov. 9-13, and Monday through Wednesday, Nov. 14-16, at the same hours. The stationary unit will be at Macomb Street and Nebraska Avenue NW.
GLOVER PARK - CLEVELAND PARK AREA: The units will operate Thursday through Sunday, Nov. 17-20, and Monday through Wednesday, Nov. 21-23. The stationary unit will be at 41st and Calvert Streets NW.
CLEVELAND PARK: The units will be in Cleveland Park Nov. 25 through 30. The stationary unit will be at 39th and Calvert Streets NW.
For more information, contact Ronald Thomas at 629-3052.