Federal agencies to offer free lead-blood testing in Jasper, Newton counties

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Aug. 6—The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will conduct free blood-lead testing for eligible children and women in Jasper and Newton counties.

Eight sessions will be held Aug. 12-20. Testing is available for children 6 and younger and women ages 15-44. Private results will be sent to each participant, who will receive a $20 gift card.

The testing events are part of a lead exposure investigation into areas that are contaminated with lead and other metals from historic mining, milling and smelting, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a release. Joplin has a long history of lead mining, with the city getting its official start when E.R. Moffet and John B. Sergeant discovered lead along Joplin Creek shortly after the end of the Civil War.

"As a mom of three kids, I encourage moms and caregivers of young children in Jasper and Newton counties to add this free blood-lead testing to their back-to-school preparations," said Meg McCollister, EPA Region 7 administrator, in a statement. "Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead poisoning, and this testing is something every mom can do to protect their children. Because lead-poisoned children don't always look or act sick, testing is the only way to determine if your child has elevated blood-lead levels."

Testing is scheduled at the Neosho YMCA, 4701 Chouteau St., at the following times:

—10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12.

—8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13.

—8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 15.

Testing also is scheduled at the Joplin Public Library, 1901 E. 20th St., at the following times:

—11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16.

—9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17.

—11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18.

—9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19.

—9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20.

Testing will be conducted at both locations on a first-come, first-served basis. For appointments or questions, call 833-678-2724 or email MoLead@cdc.gov.

The lead exposure investigation in Jasper and Newton counties is being conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in conjunction with EPA Region 7, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the Mid-America Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit and other state and local partner agencies.

Lead is a toxic metal that is harmful if inhaled or swallowed and can pose serious health risks, particularly to young children, as well as pregnant women and nursing mothers. It is classified by EPA as a probable human carcinogen and is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems.

Children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults because their nervous systems are still developing. They can get lead into their bodies by putting their hands or toys in their mouths after touching lead-contaminated soil and dust. They can also be exposed to lead before birth from lead in their mother's body.

At lower levels of exposure, lead can decrease mental development, especially learning, intelligence and behavior. Physical growth may also be decreased. A child who ingests large amounts of lead may develop anemia, severe stomachache, muscle weakness and brain damage, according to the EPA.

Exposure to lead during pregnancy can also result in premature births.