Responding to calls for action, Manchester launches lead prevention commission

New panel to review ordinances, develop recommendations for preventing poisoning
Caution Lead Hazard Warning

Manchester has the highest rate of elevated lead levels among children in New Hampshire, according to the most recent state data. Now city officials in Manchester are launching a Lead Exposure Prevention Commission to protect kids from lead poisoning.

Arnold Mikolo, an environmental justice advocate with the Conservation Law Foundation, said people in Manchester have been raising alarms about lead for a long time. The problem has been especially hard on immigrant and refugee communities, he said, who are often living in substandard housing.

“It can be a devastating experience for a parent,” he said.

While there’s more work to do, Mikolo said the new commission is a step in the right direction after years of work.

“It’s going to take a multi-pronged approach to solve this issue of lead that we know we can solve as a city,” he said.

Exposure to lead from paint, dust, pipes or other household items can cause damage to children’s nervous systems and brains, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can also slow growth and development and lead to problems with learning, hearing, and speech.

The new commission will include a mix of perspectives: city officials, a doctor, a landlord and a resident whose family has experienced lead exposure, among others. Their main goals are to develop recommendations for preventing lead poisoning and assess the city’s ordinances to determine if they should be amended to reduce lead exposure.

They’re also expected to advise city departments, recommend funding and assess progress each year.

Lead testing rates have declined in New Hampshire over the past few years, likely due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Still, more than 450 children tested at lead levels higher than the Center for Disease Control’s threshold for recommending medical case management in 2021.

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Categories: Energy and Environment, Government, News