Free lead screening kits to test water, soil and homes for lead exposure are available at 17 Indianapolis Public Library locations through a collaboration with IUPUI. Collecting the samples takes about 20 minutes and once finished, the kits can be dropped back off at the library, or another location including the Recorder.
It’s important to test for lead because it can lead to sick children, behavioral problems and developmental issues, according to Cassidy Segura Clouse, an IU McKinney School of Law student who has written a paper about lead issues as they pertain to public policy. Lead poisoning ultimately decreases attention and increases impulsivity, according to Clouse. Exposure to lead can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development and 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, according to Clouse. Once the damage is done, there is no reversing it, Clouse added.
According to research from IUPUI, Marion County has artificially increased lead levels in many areas, disproportionally affecting Black and brown residents the most. Lead poisoning is becoming a civil rights issue. The Indiana Advisory Committee wrote its 2020 report to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights entirely on lead poisoning stating: “Indiana has a troubling history with caring for and protecting non-white residents from lead poisoning.”
Sixty-three percent of children with elevated blood-lead levels in 2019 were non-white, despite white people making up 85% of the population. This, coupled with the fact that nearly 60% of Indiana’s housing was built before 1980, when lead was still being used in paint, Clouse said, can lead to huge disparities.
Government entities such as Medicaid are also undertesting children, according to Clouse. Under Indiana’s health plan, about 120,000 children are required to be tested at 12 and 24 months, but less than 40% are tested regularly. This raises concerns because “people of color are disproportionately represented among the Medicare population,” according to the Indiana Advisory Committee’s report. For children with Medicaid, if lead poisoning is discovered during testing, the medically necessary services must be provided. If children are not tested, they do not receive the services that they are legally entitled to.
Indiana’s standard for testing is also outdated, she said. Indiana uses a 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter for classifying elevated blood levels, while the CDC recommended a 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter reference value since 2012, and 3.5 micrograms reference value since 2021. Children in Indiana have to have double the amount of lead in their blood as recommended by the CDC in order to be considered contaminated.
Awareness is one of the keys to prevention and getting ahead of lead poisoning, Angela Herrmann, project manager for the Department of Environmental Sciences at IUPUI, said.
“These are educational opportunities for people to find out what’s going on in their environment,” Herrmann said.
For the DIYers, screening for lead can be a preliminary step before beginning a project. The lead testing kits may be insufficient for this purpose. The Environmental Protection Agency is offering a class for lead renovation, repair and painting in June at Irvington Library.
“I think the importance of this kind of training is knowing what you’re walking into before you start DIY projects,” Herrmann said. “What’s even more critical is if you are doing DIY projects and you have little children in the house … you are unknowingly creating a contamination issue in your house. That’s why participating in that kind of training is important so that you can do that work in a way that’s safe for you and everyone in your family.”
Contact staff writer Jayden Kennett at 317-762-7847 or email at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @JournoJay.
Pick up a kit
Lead testing kits are available at the following IndyPL branches:
-Beech Grove, 1102 E. Main St., Beech Grove
-College Avenue, 4180 N. College Ave.
-East 38th Street, 5420 E. 38th St.
-Franklin Road, 5550 S. Franklin Road
-Garfield Park, 2502 Shelby St.
-Glendale, 6101 N. Keystone Ave.
-Haughville, 2121 W. Michigan Ave.
-Lawrence, 7898 Hague Road
-Martindale-Brightwood, 2434 N. Sherman Drive
-Nora, 8625 Guilford Ave.
-Library Services Center, 2450 N. Meridian St.
-Pike, 6525 Zionsville Road
-Southport, 2630 E. Stop 11 Road
-Spades Park, 1801 Nowland Ave.
-Wayne, 198 S. Girls School Road
-West Indianapolis, 1216 S. Kappes St.
-West Perry, 6650 S. Harding Ave.
Results from the samples are ready within about three weeks. To have your samples tested, drop off the kits at local libraries and the following locations:
-Marion County Public Health Department Northwest District, 6940 N. Michigan Road
-Marion County Public Health Department Meadows Clinic, 3901 Meadows Drive
-Marion County Public Health Department Eagledale Plaza, 2802 Lafayette Road, Suite 13
-Marion County Public Health Department Northeast District, 6042 E. 21st St.
-Marion County Public Health Department South District, 7551 S. Shelby St.
-International Marketplace Coalition, 3520 Guion Road
-Indianapolis Recorder, 2901 N. Tacoma Ave.
-IUPUI School of Science, 723 W. Michigan St., SL118
-Ujamaa Community Bookstore, 2424 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St.
The Environmental Protection Agency will have a free lead renovation, repair and painting training. Anyone who does renovation work, maintenance work or enjoys DIY projects is encouraged to attend. The class will be free at 9 a.m. June 2 at Irvington Library, 5625 E. Washington St. Participants should expect to spend most of their day completing hands-on exercises, listening to presentations of modules and completing a certification exam, which is required for individuals who may disturb paint or coated surfaces of other properties. Contractors without proper certification can incur fines of up to $37,500 a day.
This story has been updated to clarify DIY information and drop-off locations.