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‘Growing Healthy Communities’ free event offers lead education, afternoon of fun 

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A northwest side public library is planning a fun-filled horticulture afternoon next week for kids, while also educating parents about the dangers of lead poisoning.

The March 25 event will be at the Eagle branch of the Indianapolis Public Library.

Hosting the event, Growing Healthy Communities, in partnership with WFYI, will feature garden crafts, bilingual story time, planting seeds and other garden activities to engage kids. The children will be able to plant seeds to take home, and even select native seeds to take home.

Meanwhile, parents will be able to ask questions and learn how to test their homes and gardens for lead, one of the most dangerous sources linked to development problems of young children.

The event is free and open to the public.

“Learning about lead does not have to be boring! Understanding where lead is, such as in the soil, and how to address it, is a great first step in how we prevent lead poisoning and why,” Angela Herrmann, program manager at IUPUI said. “Gardening happens in community, and so can lead poisoning prevention. That’s why we at IUPUI have partnered with the Indianapolis Public Library to create a fun, family-oriented afternoon of storytelling, gardening, and learning how to screen your home for lead.”

Lead is a toxic heavy metal that can be found throughout a child’s environment, according to Indiana Lead Free’s website. Historically, it has been used in a variety of products including gasoline, plumbing pipes, batteries and most commonly, paint. 

Marion County has artificially increased levels of lead in many areas, disproportionately affecting the far east side, south side, and areas directly outside of downtown, according to research from IUPUI. Most of Indianapolis, especially the areas directly outside of downtown, have a high risk for lead exposure, according to an interactive map by Vox and the Washington State Department of Health. The most common source of lead exposure in Indianapolis is housing, says the Indiana Department of Health.  

Testing for lead is important because it can lead to sick children, behavioral problems and developmental issues, said attorney Cassidy Clouse, who has focused on lead issues as they pertain to public policy. Lead poisoning ultimately decreases attention and increases impulsivity.

Exposure to lead can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, slow growth and development, and cause hearing and speech problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 2,000 Hoosier children are affected by lead poisoning annually and less than 12% are tested every year, Clouse said. Once the damage is done, there is no reversing it.

Sixty-three percent of children with elevated blood-lead levels in 2019 were non-white, despite whites making up 85% of the population.

Nearly 60% of Indiana’s housing stock was built before 1978 when lead was still being used in paint, Clouse said.

But beginning last January, House Enrolled Act 1313 requires all Indiana healthcare providers to offer lead poisoning screening to children under six and determine if they have been tested. 

If you go: 

What: Growing Healthy Communities 
Where: Eagle branch public library, 3905 Moller Road 
When: March 25, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.  
Cost: Free 
Contact environmental reporter Jayden Kennett at 317-762-7847. Follow her on Twitter @JournoJay. 

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