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VI Department of Health Announces Initiative for Pediatric Lead Testing on St. Croix, Sets Goal to Test 1,000 Children

St. Croix, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr., during today’s Government House press briefing, declared a State of Emergency to address the potable water system on St. Croix and concerns about elevated levels of lead and copper.

As the Department of Planning and Natural Resources collaborates with its federal partners and the Water and Power Authority to rehabilitate the water system, the VI Department of Health is intensifying its efforts to raise awareness about lead exposure and impact on health, particularly for the most vulnerable population – pregnant women and children aged 0 to 6.

“We are announcing the launch of a new project titled ‘Safe Haven: A Lead-Free Family Initiative,’ with the objectives of increasing awareness about lead exposure and conducting blood lead level pediatric testing for children ages 0 to 6 years old on the island of St. Croix,” said Nicole Craigwell-Syms, Acting Commissioner for the VI Department of Health.

Lead exposure can impact children’s development from the womb and early childhood, affecting attention spans, hyperactivity, and IQ levels. The risks of lead exposure are not limited to children; adults exposed to lead exhibit irritability and aggressive behavior, and it negatively impacts virtually every system of the body.

“Testing the blood lead level will allow us to develop a baseline to determine the health impacts of lead in children as we work toward a lead-free future,” Acting Commissioner Craigwell-Syms stated. “Our goal is to test approximately 1,000 young children on the island of St. Croix.”

Testing will be provided at no cost to the child.

This week, the VI Department of Health’s Epidemiology Division, in collaboration with the VI Department of Education, will pilot the program at Alfredo Andrews Elementary School for students in pre-K to first grade.

A capillary lead level test, or a finger-prick sample, is collected.

Parents of pre-K to first-grade students at Alfredo Andrews Elementary School can register their child and provide parental permission for testing at the AAES Public Registration site: . The registration site is currently open for parents and guardians of Alfredo Andrews Elementary School students only.

Starting Monday, November 6th, the VI Department of Health will offer blood lead level testing to all children aged 0 to 6 on the island of St. Croix. To have a child tested, a parent or guardian must register their child on our online portal and provide consent. On Wednesday, the VI Department of Health will provide a new link to the registration site via local news outlets, online at, and on our Facebook page, @virginislandsDOH.

The Epidemiology team will conduct tests from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, at the Community Health van located adjacent to the department’s modulars in Estate Richmond, Christiansted. The VI Department of Health is also providing the blood lead level test to the general population of children aged 0 to 6 at no cost.

A child with lead poisoning may not exhibit visible signs or symptoms, and many children with lead poisoning appear healthy. A blood lead test is the best way to determine if a child has lead poisoning. The capillary blood lead test, a finger-prick sample, is the initial step to check for lead in a child’s blood.

During this test, a small amount of blood is taken from the finger and tested for lead.

If the capillary blood lead test shows positive results, the VI Department of Health will contact the parent or guardian and recommend follow-up testing. A venous blood draw is used to confirm the capillary blood test results, drawing blood from the child’s vein, which is less likely to be contaminated with lead. The venous blood draw will be sent to a laboratory for testing, and results may take a few days. If the venous blood draw indicates lead poisoning, follow-up services will be recommended.

Residents with health concerns related to lead testing can call the Department of Health hotlines from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Individuals can reach us at 340-712-6299 or 340-776-1519.

The VI Department of Health strongly urges residents to also assess their home environment.

“Lead isn’t limited to water; it’s present in old plumbing, paint, soil, and consumer products,” emphasized Acting Commissioner Craigwell-Syms. “We encourage residents to assess their homes and to consider installing filters or water filtration systems.”

Our Mission: “To Reduce Health Risks, Increase Access to Quality Healthcare and Enforce Health Standards”