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All Results Return Negative in Pediatric Lead Testing Pilot

An Alfredo Andrews Elementary School student is tested for lead in the blood. (Photo courtesy of V.I. Health Department)

The V.I. Health Department’s pilot testing phase of the “Safe Haven – A Lead-Free Families Initiative” program was successfully completed and all results returned negative for lead in the blood, Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Nicole Craigwell-Syms announced Friday.

The 64 students tested were from Alfredo Andrews Elementary School students in Granny Pre-K, first and second grade, according to the press release.

The “Safe Haven” initiative is designed to safeguard the health of vulnerable populations amidst concerns about lead exposure. Testing was conducted by the department’s Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases divisions, the press release stated.

Free pediatric lead testing to St. Croix’s general zero-to-six-year population will be available beginning on Monday, Nov. 6, according to Craigwell-Syms.

The DOH’s objective is to test 1,000 children on St. Croix to establish a baseline of current exposure levels as the territory progresses toward a lead-free future, the release stated.

Free pediatric lead testing will be available from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, at the Community Health van located adjacent to the department’s modulars in Estate Richmond, Christiansted. Pre-registration is required for testing. Parents or guardians can register their child online at the department’s portal: Lead Testing Gateway | Beacon USVI, according to the release.

“Offering pediatric lead testing to the general population of zero-to-six-year-olds is a crucial step in ensuring the public health and safety of our community,” said Craigwell-Syms. “By identifying lead exposure early, we can take necessary steps to prevent adverse health effects in children,” she said.

Children under the age of six are still developing rapidly, and lead exposure can adversely affect their brain, nervous system, growth, development, and overall behavior. Lead exposure has been linked to attention deficits, hyperactivity, and lowered IQ levels in children. Early identification of lead in the blood is key to reducing the long-term effects of lead exposure. Often, lead poisoning may not manifest visible symptoms, making blood lead tests crucial for diagnosis, the release stated.

The initial capillary blood lead test, obtained through a simple finger-prick sample, provides the first step in checking a child’s blood for lead content. If the capillary blood lead test yields positive results, the DOH will promptly contact the parent or guardian to recommend follow-up testing, it said.

The department is advising that all other individuals, including pregnant women, should see their private provider or visit the Frederiksted Healthcare Center or the St. Croix Clinical Laboratory for lead testing, the release stated.

In response to concerns about elevated levels of lead and copper in St. Croix’s potable water system, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., on Monday, Oct. 30, declared a State of Emergency for the island of St. Croix as a precursor to securing a federal declaration. The Department of Planning and Natural Resources and the DOH, alongside VITEMA and the V.I. Water and Power Authority, are leading the response effort, according to the release.

Residents with health concerns related to lead exposure and testing may call the Health Department hotlines from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For assistance, please contact 340-712-6299 or 340-776-1519.

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