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Nursing students head to local schools to assess exposure to lead

A collaboration of the School of Nursing, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, the City of Cleveland and the MetroHealth School Health Program, the project seeks to increase the percentage of 3- to 5-year-old Cleveland children screened to 80 percent by 2019.

As I pricked the finger of a pre-K student in a Cleveland school, I expected a shriek or a muffled sob. Instead, I got questions: What was I doing? Did I get enough blood? Did I need to check his other hand too? His little face was inches from his finger, inspecting what we were doing.

Cleveland has one of the highest rates of childhood lead exposure in the country.

I am studying to be a nurse, I explained, and I was taking a little bit of blood from his finger to make sure he is healthy (specifically, that his lead levels aren’t too high—though I didn’t share that point with him). And yes, I assured him, I got enough of a sample; just the one hand was good enough!

While his reaction stands out, I was surprised by how well most of these pre-K and kindergarten students reacted to having their fingers pricked. I was relieved because, ultimately, what we’re doing through a grant from the Prentiss Foundation will help us make sure Cleveland children are healthier in the long run.

Lead poisoning can have so many troubling impacts on children— like lower IQs and slower physical growth. And Cleveland has one of the highest rates of childhood lead exposure in the country.

By testing children early, we can identify who is at risk, and then refer their families to health professionals. We also can point them to other resources, such as lead abatement specialists for their homes, to help set them on a path toward a healthier future.

Elizabeth Adams, a junior studying nursing

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