Just two decades ago, the vast majority of Rhode Island children had elevated levels of lead in their blood when they were tested at the start of Kindergarten. Today, the percentage has dropped into the single digits, according to Rhode Island Kids Count Executive Director Elizabeth Burke Bryant, whose organization started tracking blood lead statistics in the mid-1990s.
"Back in 1995, there were 71 percent of children in the state with elevated blood lead levels," Burke Bryant told RIPR's Elisabeth Harrison. "And over the past 20 years that has declined statewide to about 5.3 percent."
Burke Bryant says the core cities of Providence, Central Falls, Pawtucket and Woonsocket have more children with elevated lead levels, but only by a couple of percentage points.
This year's Rhode Island Kids Count Factbook found a one-year increase in children with significant lead poisoning in the Ocean State. While the increase is concerning, Burke Bryant says the overall numbers are heading in the right direction. She urged the state to continue enforcing laws aimed at reducing the risk of lead, particularly in older housing stock.