DELAWARE, Indiana — The Indiana Department of Health is working to coordinate lead testing for children after a local pediatrician noticed a trend in some of his patients with parents who work at a manufacturing plant.
Dr. Robert Bryn has worked as a pediatrician in Muncie since 2006 and says that he made the connection between the children with high lead levels and where their parents work.
“Over the past five to ten years I’ve suspected based on some kids I’ve seen in the office that there could be a link with the parent’s occupation at the Exide facility,” said Dr. Bryn.
The Delaware County Health Department says they informed state officials last year that they were concerned that Exide Technologies had been tracking lead home on their clothing, exposing their children to lead.
Exide Technologies issued a statement saying they were aware of “two isolated instances” that were being investigated by the Delaware County Health Department, but their practices are “designed to prevent employees from leaving its facilities with lead or other chemical residues on their clothes.”
You can read their full statement below.
“Exide maintains OSHA-compliant hygiene practices designed to prevent employees from leaving its facilities with lead or other chemical residue on their clothes. Exide is aware of two isolated instances from the Delaware County Health Department report. The most effective preventative measure to avoid lead leaving the facility is the complete compliance of our employees to all safety policies and procedures. Exide has reeducated our Muncie plant employees on our policies and procedures, proper hygiene practices and lead awareness. Exide places the utmost importance on the health and safety of our employees, their families and the communities in which we operate and we are coordinating with the Indiana State Health Department, which is providing a free blood lead testing clinic in the community this week and next week.”
Dr. Bryn said whenever they find a child with elevated levels of lead, they take a family history asking things like:
- When their home was built
- What area of town they live in
- Where their parents work
Former Exide employee, Howard Smith described some of the decontamination procedures they would have to follow each day.
“You would take all your dirty clothes and put them in a hamper with everybody else,” he said.
Smith said he would shower three times a day at work and then change into clean clothes in another room.
“They could have done their clothing in smaller batches instead of everyone together and that would have cut down on some of the lead dust too,” said Smith.
The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics say there is no lead level that is safe for a child.
Exposure to lead comes with risk factors that sometimes take years to identify which include damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems (e.g., reduced IQ, ADHD, juvenile delinquency and criminal behavior) and hearing and speech problems.