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Lead test bill has good intention, but consequences
A bill advanced by the Legislature on Monday has good intentions, but would have unintended consequences. And, like most measures, we will all bear the costs, through personal expenses when our child goes to school, through our taxes or in other ways.
The bill, LB 204, would require blood-lead tests to the list of medical requirements for students enrolling in kindergarten or transferring from another district.
It "provides a means to ensure all children in Nebraska are screened for lead during that critical and vulnerable age between 6 months and 72 months," according to Omaha Sen. Brenda Council, the sponsor.
The tests would be required unless the family raises religious objections or present a signed doctor's note confirming that the child's risk of lead poisoning is "very low." They couldn't meet the latter standard if they lived in a house built before 1960, were born in high-risk countries or had other experiences that could have exposed them to lead.
There's no overstating problems from lead poisoning, which can cause children to have below normal intelligence, academic failure, behavioral problems and learning disabilities, usually irreversible and not easy to diagnose until it's too late.
The law would require parents or guardians to be notified about special education services if a child's blood levels rise to 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter or higher.
But what then? Would it be enough to simply shuffle children into special education classes while the rest of their family -- including any younger siblings -- continue to live in a lead-contaminated house?
The law requires parents to pay the cost of the blood test if they are able; the Legislative Fiscal Office estimates the state would have to contribute $51,000 over the next two years to test 8,300 children whose parents were unable to pay for the test.
But who will pay to remove the lead from the housing, or to move the family elsewhere?
Obviously the problem is one that won't be caused with a simple blood test, but one that will require an array of local, state and federal efforts.
Would you support the passage of LB 205?
Vote at mccookgazette.com