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High lead level found in 1-year-old

WORTHINGTON -- A 1-year-old child in Nobles County has been diagnosed with a "very high" blood lead level, and because the level is higher than 15 micrograms per deciliter, an investigator from the Minnesota Department of Health's Asbestos and Lead Compliance Program will visit the county next week to visit the home where the child resides.

Nobles-Rock Community Health Services (NRCHS) Public Health Nurse Cindy Frederickson said it isn't yet known how the child was exposed to lead poisoning. Lead was a common ingredient in paint used in homes prior to 1978 and is prevalent in paint from homes built prior to 1950. There are numerous other sources tied to lead poisoning, ranging from antique and imported toys to imported pottery, some children's jewelry, fishing sinkers and billiard chalk cubes.

"Lead has a sweet taste and a child will consume paint chips," said Frederickson. In 2006, a 4-year-old Minnesota child died after ingesting a metallic charm that was later measured at 99.1 percent lead content.

While this is the first elevated blood lead investigation in Nobles County this year, Frederickson said there were two cases in 2010. In all of the incidents, the children were younger than age 6.

In this latest case, the child was taken to a local clinic where the high blood lead level was discovered through a lab draw. Once a discovery is made, it is mandatory for clinics and hospitals to report the incident to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), who then notifies the local agency to begin case management.

Frederickson said NRCHS is working to educate the family on blood lead poisoning, and follow-up testing will be conducted.

In extreme cases of poisoning, she said chelation treatments -- a chemical removal of metals in the body -- could be used. Other medications could be used as well.

Symptoms of elevated blood lead levels can include irritability and reduced appetite to decreased coordination, shortened attention span, aggressive behavior and learning disabilities in extreme cases.

"It can have a lifetime impact," said Frederickson.

The MDH inspection comes at no additional cost to the local public health department.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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