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VI Department of Health Expands Pediatric Lead Screening, Outreach Efforts to the St. Thomas-St. John District

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – The VI Department of Health’s Epidemiology and Laboratory Divisions are expanding pediatric lead screening to the St. Thomas-St. John District in a continuing effort to develop a baseline of exposure for children 0 to 6 years old – the most vulnerable population.

“This extension is part of the VI Department of Health’s “Safe Haven – Lead-Free Families” initiative and the goal is to build a future free of lead in the Territory,” said VI Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion. “While we feel confident that the Territory’s public water system does not contain high levels of lead, we know that there are several other sources of lead such as paint, toys, and jewelry. Completing St. Thomas-St. John District screening gives us a total picture and helps inform future planning efforts to address lead exposure.”

The current schedule for pediatric lead screening in the St. Thomas-St. John District is as follows:

  • Tuesday, January 30th, VI Montessori School and Peter Gruber International Academy
  • Wednesday January 31st: Yvonne Milliner Bowsky Elementary
  • Thursday February 1st: Joseph Sibilly Elementary/Sugar Apple Pre-K
  • Friday February 2nd: Joseph Gomez Elementary
  • Monday February 5th: Ula F. Muller Elementary
  • Tuesday February 6th: Julius E. Sprauve Elementary
  • Wednesday February 7th.: Lockhart Elementary
  • Thursday February 8th: Jane E. Tuitt Elementary School
  • February 14th, Newton Academy
  • February 14th, Minds in Motion
  • February 15th, Sunbeam Preschool
  • February 15th, Sunshine Bear Daycare and Preschool
  • February, 15th, UVI Inclusive Child Care
  • February 16th, Beyond Bright Daycare
  • February 16th, Handy Spandy Preschool

The Epidemiology Division is working to schedule other schools interested in lead screening. For more information call the VIDOH Hotline at (340) 712-6299. Pediatric lead screening is provided at no cost and parental consent is required before the test can be administered.

The pediatric blood lead screening, also known as a finger-prick sample, is the first step in checking a child’s blood for lead content. If the finger prick test yields a “detected pending confirmation” result, the VI Department of Health will promptly contact the parent or guardian to recommend follow-up testing through a venous blood draw. If the venous blood draw is positive, the department then assesses the home to find the source of the lead.

A blood lead test is the best way to find out if a child has lead poisoning. A child with lead poisoning may not have visible signs or symptoms. Many children who have lead poisoning look and act healthy. Children under the age of six are still developing rapidly, and lead exposure can adversely affect their brain, nervous system, growth, development, and overall behavior.

Last month, the VI Department of Health surpassed its initial goal of screening at least 1,000 St. Croix children six years and younger for lead exposure. The VI Department of Health’s Epidemiology and Laboratory divisions provided screening at 26 sites including at public, private and parochial schools, day cares, child-centered non-profit organizations and within communities.

To date, 1,270 individuals have been screened for lead exposure with three confirmed as positive for lead in the blood, according to Dr. Esther Ellis, Territorial Epidemiologist. Three individuals tested positive for lead via a venous blood draw.

“Boots on the Ground,” a multi-departmental community outreach effort to support the water emergency response, is also expanding to the St. Thomas-St. John District and, in partnership with VI Housing Authority, will visit housing communities across the islands. Outreach begins on Jan. 31st.

The VI Department of Health’s response effort began following the local State of Emergency declaration on Oct. 31st, to address possible lead and copper contamination in the public water system. Subsequent comprehensive water sampling on St. Croix found low to undetectable levels of lead in the potable water system.

Governor Bryan, during his sixth State of the Territory Address Monday, announced the lifting of the “No Drink Advisory” for St. Croix’s public water system.

For more information about lead exposure, please call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.