"Get Ahead of Lead" is a campaign spearheaded by the Onondaga County Department of Health that not only works to inform people of the dangers of lead, but offers free blood tests for children to measure the amount of lead in their systems. Health workers endured the heat wave on July 9 in Fayetteville, giving free lead tests to children in the parking lot behind Towne Center as part of the safety fair sponsored by the Manlius Police Department in cooperation with the health department.
Ann Barnett of the health department said that even though lead was taken out of paint in 1978, the risk of lead poisoning is still very much a reality. Houses that have had the lead paint scraped from them could still have many abatement issues, such as lead that has sunken into the top ten feet of topsoil surrounding the house, which can remain in the area for up to forty years, Barnett said.
Get Ahead of Lead is the health department's program to help carry out the state mandate that requires children to be tested for lead at age 1 and again at age 2. It has a database of all the children in Onondaga County that shows testing status and lead levels.
"It does slip through the cracks a lot, and that's why we're out here," Barnett said. "A lot of doctors see kids that live in the suburbs and think they don't have to test again at age 2 since the first test was okay. But age 2 is when the kids are starting to be more mobile and touching things and putting things in their mouth."
Barnett said that one of the reasons that the Get Ahead of Lead campaign continues to receive funding is because the incidence of lead poisoning in Onondaga County is slightly higher than the national rate. Aside from doing a letter campaign to inform parents of the state mandate and administering free blood tests for children, they distribute informational packets about potential risks of lead poisoning.