ROCK ISLAND, Illinois -- As reports of lead-tainted drinking water throughout the region continue to surface, the Rock Island County Health Department is urging parents to get their children tested for the presence of lead in their blood if they suspect their water may contain the element.
There are two ways for children from birth to age 5 to get testing through the health department; via the WIC Supplemental Nutrition Program or the School Health LINK clinics in Rock Island and Silvis.
“Children exposed to lead often have trouble with learning, thinking, and behaving that can have life-long repercussions,” said Janet Hill, chief operating officer at the Rock Island County Health Department. “Lead is particularly dangerous for children because their growing bodies absorb it more easily, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damage.
No amount of lead is safe in the body, Hill added. Lead, a naturally occurring element in air, soil, and water, was used extensively in household products, most notably paint and water pipes, before the federal government banned it for household uses in 1978. Lead can lead to serious health problems, particularly for children 6 and younger and for pregnant women. Babies and young children can touch lead-contaminated items, most frequently peeling paint or dust, and then put their hands in their mouths.
The Rock Island County Health Department tests children who participate in the WIC program at ages 1 and 2, per screening guidelines, and state law requires that all children by tested by age 6. In 2016, 121 children of 2,419 screened in Rock Island County were shown to have elevated lead levels in their bodies. So far in 2017 in the county, 2,498 children have been screened, and 96 have tested above acceptable limits.
For WIC appointments Monday-Friday, please call the phone numbers listed below. WIC is offered in three locations in Rock Island County:
- Rock Island County Health Department, 2112 25th Ave. Rock Island; Call 309-794-7070.
- WIC office in Moline located at Community Health Care, 1106 4th Ave, Moline; Call 563-327-2074.
- WIC office in East Moline located at Community Health Care, 708 15th Ave., East Moline, on Mondays only; Call 309-737-0923.
For comprehensive pediatric health services through the School Health LINK, including lead testing, please call the phone numbers listed below.
- School Health LINK-Rock Island, 2508 25th Street, Suite A. Call 309-732-0958
- School Health LINK-Silvis, 1314 10th St. Call 309-281-2420
Families also can receive blood lead testing through their physician’s office.