Last November, Washington's Department of Human Resources studied the blood-lead levels of 650 children in an affluent area of Northwest. The study followed an earlier report by another city agency that 42 percent of 500 children in the same area had elevated levels of the metal in their systems.
In December, DHR produced a press release asserting that only 3.1 percent of the children it studied had any problem, and officials, promised to release data to support this conclusion. Yesterday, DHR director Albert P. Rmusso released a report "spelling out all the data."
That report considered of a collection of press clippings, federal explanation of lead poisoning and essentially the same numbers included in last year's press release. And Russo said his department is about to resurvey the ame children next month.
DHR first attempted to conduct the resurvey last summer, but parents of only about 100 of the original 650 children responded to the government's request that they make the youngsters available for another test.
The second DHR rest was necessary, experts in the lead field said, because a survey conducted in the fall proves little. Studies have shown, they are markedly higher in the summer than they are in the fall.
Experts contacted yesterday said the city would face the same problem-doing a study in October as it faced in November.
According to a recent study of 34 children in Lansing, Mich., published in the journal, Social Science and Medicine, there was an overall seasonal variation in lead level of 22 percent. Some children showed changes of 100 percent, this article said.
Dr. Raymond Standard, chief of the city's health department, said yesterday the survey is scheduled for October because parents who were away during the summer now are available.
Lead traditionally has been viewed as a health hazard only in inner city areas where children are more likely to ingest lead paint peeling on walls, and in areas around lead smelting plants.
The first study was conducted jointly by the city's Department of Environmental Services and Howard University's School of Medicine. The results provided one of the most striking indications found in any city that lead may be as much a threat to the affluent as it is to the poor.
Lead represents a danger to children on several levels. Until recently most physicians thought it was a threat only when it reached high levels, when so-called lead poisoning, which can lead to coma and death, develops.
But a study last year in Boston of the lead levels in the baby teeth of two carefully matched groups of children showed that those with slightly elevated levels of lead in their blood had IQs as much as nine points lower than those with lower lead-blood levels.
At the time the city is setting out to retest children's blood lead levels, it is beginning a budget year in which there is no money for removing lead paint from the walls of homes where the hazard is found.
When Russo was asked yesterday why there is no money for paint removal, city administrator Julian Dugas, who was sitting in on Russo weekly press conference, muttered under his breath, "people can remove it themselves."
After said, "I can't respond to that" question, Dugas said, "I can respond to it. In an affluent area like Ward 3, parents can go out and scrape it off themselves and repaint it. What are you talking bout:" he asked rhetorically, as some DHR employes giggled.
Does the city have different standards for affluent and poor residents, he was asked.
"You ask me what can be done I'm telling you what can be done," said the aide and close personal friend of recently defeated Mayor Walter Washington.