And for the school corporation to work with other groups to help make that happen.
At least that was their message Tuesday when they gave a presentation to the Michigan City Area School Board of Trustees.
The task force was formed last year in response to a report from Reuters that Michigan City was one of 3,000 areas in 21 states that had lead poisoning rates at least double that of Flint, Michigan.
During the presentation, Rob Johnson, a member of the committee, went over the dangers lead posing can pose to children of any age, and also provided some suggestions that could be used to help combat the issue.
“Since Flint and Chicago there has been kind of a burst of attention nationwide with lead as a health concern,” Johnson said. “For adults you have to have really high exposure to it. For children things tend to be fairly serious. The more scientists have been researching, they have been finding out that there is no real safe limit for children.”
Johnson added that scientists have found permanent attention, behavioral and cognitive disorders in children who have been exposed to lead.
Johnson also asserted that the biggest block of children who are at risk to lead posing are those who live in poverty. Johnson claimed that 70 percent of the housing within La Porte County was built before 1978, when the federal government banned the use of lead based paint in homes. Johnson added that about 40 percent of children in the area live in poverty, and when combined, these two factors create a growing problem.
“The older the house and the poorer the resident, the more likely it will deteriorate and cause a hazard,” he said.
Johnson did present the board with some action that could be taken to help combat the issue within the community: Testing.
“I think its the easiest area where we could be doing better, but as a community we are falling short,” he said. “We’re not getting to the people that we want to be getting to.”
Johnson added that under Indiana law, school boards can require lead poisoning testing as a condition of enrollment. He also added that children on Medicaid are already tested automatically.
“Given that the goal is to help low income people and low income children, I wouldn’t want to recommend anything to place a new burden on people whose lives are already difficult,” he said. “But given that schools require vaccination and work with health departments and doctors to make sure that it’s accessible for all children, I’m sure that something could be worked up or at least looked at with other agencies to make sure were getting as many kids tested for this as possible.”