Blood lead level testing could be required for kindergarten enrollment

Senators advanced a bill March 28 that would require that children’s blood lead levels be tested before they enroll in kindergarten.

LB204, introduced by Omaha Sen. Brenda Council, would require blood lead level testing of children between the ages of 18 months and four years, and within six months of enrollment for transfer students older than four.

The parent or guardian of a student whose blood level is 10 micrograms or higher of lead per deciliter of blood must be notified by the state Department of Health and Human Services about the availability of special education services or resources for their children.

The bill would provide a means to ensure that all children in Nebraska are screened for elevated levels of lead while they are still young, Council said. Lead poisoning in children can lead to reduced intelligence, behavioral problems and learning disabilities, she said, which can affect school performance.

Under the bill, students would not be required to have blood level testing if they have a signed physician’s statement stating that they are very low risk for elevated blood lead levels. A child could be considered low risk if he or she has not:
• lived in or spent significant time in any building built before 1960;
• lived or frequently come in contact with an adult who works with lead;
• lived near a battery manufacturing plant, battery recycling plant, lead smelter or other source of significant lead emissions;
• been born in or spent more than three months in Mexico, Central America, Eastern Europe or Southeast Asia;
• ingested food, candy, nonfood items or remedies containing lead;
• played with toys, jewelry or other items recalled by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission due to lead contamination; or
• had significant exposure to a product determined to contain lead by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, department of Housing and Urban Development, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Food and Drug Administration.

The bill’s fiscal note estimates a cost of $100,000 for testing Medicaid eligible children over the next two fiscal years.

Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist spoke in support of LB204, saying the state has a vested interest in identifying children who have high blood lead levels. The bill would create a pathway to early identification of high blood lead levels in children, Nordquist said.

Valentine Sen. Deb Fischer spoke in opposition to the bill, saying it does not solve the problem of lead exposure in children.

An Education Committee amendment would allow students of private or parochial schools to be exempt from blood lead screenings, require additional assessments for children who test high for blood lead levels and make the bill effective immediately if passed.

Wilber Sen. Russ Karpisek offered an amendment to the committee amendment that would reinstate private, denominational and parochial schools to the list of schools requiring the test.

“If it is good for one [school], I do not know why it would not be good for the other,” he said.

He later withdrew his amendment.

Council also offered an amendment to the committee amendment, adopted 47-0, that would make the bill effective for students entering kindergarten after July 1, 2012. The amendment would change the effective date to give parents enough time and notice for their children to receive blood lead tests prior to entering kindergarten, Council said.

The committee amendment was adopted 29-0 and the bill advanced from general file on a 29-9 vote.

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