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.