- Associated Press - Sunday, March 20, 2016

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (AP) - Testing of children for lead poisoning is inconsistent in Wisconsin, an analysis finds, with some counties at the greatest risk of lead poisoning among those testing the least.

Experts say lead paint causes nearly all childhood lead poisoning in Wisconsin. Use of lead paint was most common on houses built before 1950 and is a particular problem in Wisconsin, which ranks 12th in the nation in the number of pre-1950 homes.

USA Today Network-Wisconsin (https://wrtnews.co/1SbwyBq ) reported that the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and U.S. census data show Clark and Iowa counties in the bottom 10 for the percentage of children tested for lead poisoning despite the two having some of Wisconsin’s largest concentrations of pre-1950s homes.

Lead poisoning is irreversible and can cause developmental delays. Nearly 4,000 Wisconsin children younger than age 6 were positive for lead poisoning in 2014. About 20 percent of all children younger than 6 were tested, but testing rates for individual health departments ranged from less than 10 percent to more than 40 percent.

Officials say the variation comes from local factors such as the age of housing and reliance on doctors for lead testing. Local health departments do lead testing for those without private insurance, but doctors are otherwise tasked with screening children for lead poisoning risk factors - such as regular contact with a house built before 1950 or a sibling with lead poisoning - and conducting a blood test if warranted.

State guidelines exist for when to conduct in-home investigations of positive tests, but there is no statewide mandate on which children should be tested.

State Rep. Chris Taylor said health officials should be doing more.

“There’s no one who can dispute our standards are dangerously out of date and the testing that needs to be done to identify the source isn’t being done by the state,” the Democrat from Madison said.

But an official with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services contends the agency has done a good job of using its testing to target children who are at high risk.

“While it might be best that all children be tested, it’s more important to focus on the children at high risk,” said Margie Coons, manager of the Wisconsin Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

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