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DOH’s Pediatric Lead Testing of 118 Children Shows 4 Detected, Pending Confirmation

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

This week, the V.I. Department of Health’s (DOH’s) Epidemiology Division is continuing its pediatric lead testing for children six years old and younger at both public and private schools. The lead test is being provided at no cost to the child, and parental consent is required before the test can be administered.

“Since announcing last week that the Department of Health would accommodate requests from parent-teacher organizations to provide lead testing on campus, six schools have asked that the service to be provided on-site,” said Dr. Esther Ellis, territorial epidemiologist. “As of this week, we are testing at two sites daily – at our home base and at a school.”

The following is the Epidemiology and Laboratory Divisions’ schedule for the next seven days of testing:

Lew Muckle Elementary School.

Good Hope/Country Day, Tuesday, Nov. 14.

Claude O. Markoe Elementary School, Wednesday, Nov. 15.

St. Croix Montessori School, Thursday, Nov. 16.

Ricardo Richards Elementary School, Friday, Nov. 17.

Eulalie Rivera Elementary School, Monday, Nov. 20.

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

An epidemiology team will also provide testing at the base of operations near the V.I. Department of Health’s modulars in Estate Richmond from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. Before a child can be tested, parents or guardians must register their child and give consent on the V.I. Department of Health’s registration portal, Lead Testing Gateway | Beacon USVI, https://health.usvi.care/pediatric-lead-testing.html

The pediatric blood lead test, also known as a finger-prick sample, is the first step in checking a child’s blood for lead content. If the finger prick test yields positive results, the VI Department of Health will promptly contact the parent or guardian to recommend follow-up testing through a venous blood draw.

A blood lead test is the best way to find out if a child has lead poisoning. A child with lead poisoning may not have visible signs or symptoms. Many children who have lead poisoning look and act healthy. 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.

Pediatric Lead Testing and Results

To date, the Epidemiology and Laboratory Divisions have tested 118 children on the island of St. Croix, with four “detected and pending confirmation.” Venous blood draws are being completed for these four.

Residents with health concerns related to lead exposure and testing may call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. For more information about lead testing, call the Department of Health hotlines at 712-6299 or 776-1519, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The pediatric lead testing is part of the department’s “Safe Haven– A Lead-Free Families Initiative,” which aims 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.

DOH requested assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and six individuals are now here to assist: two epidemiologists, two laboratorians, a communications specialist and a team lead.

Department of Health’s Mission: “To Reduce Health Risks, Increase Access to Quality Healthcare, and Enforce Health Standards”

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