Penn Medicine LG Health to invest $50 million in lead poisoning education and home remediation

Ioannis Pashakis//August 23, 2021

Penn Medicine LG Health to invest $50 million in lead poisoning education and home remediation

Ioannis Pashakis//August 23, 2021

Carolyn Scanlan, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Board of Trustees Chairperson, explains LG Health’s newly announced Lead-Free Families initiative during a press conference on Monday. PHOTO/ IOANNIS PASHAKIS

A new 10-year initiative by Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health will see the Lancaster-based hospital system invest $50 million into combating lead poisoning in Lancaster County.

LG Health announced its new Lead-Free Families initiative on Monday that it says will allow it to identify and remediate lead hazards in at least 2,800 Lancaster County homes in the next decade.

Pennsylvania has one of the highest lead poisoning rates in the United States with Lancaster County having the fourth largest rate in the state, said Dr. Michael Ripchinski, LG Health’s chief clinical officer.

Lead poisoning is incurable once a patient has it and can result in serious health issues among children in particular, including slowed growth, lower IQ, learning problems and more.

“We are certainly seeing children who had blood levels so high that they had to be omitted to the hospital and that for me as a family physician really makes me think of prevention,” said Ripchinski. “These are potentially lifelong learning disabilities, developmental problems in the future, that we could have prevented if we tested early and tested their homes.”

Through the new initiative, LG Health plans to increase lead screening in the county, provide in-home lead testing and remediation, offer health care and social service support and provide education and information on the subject.

“This disease may not be curable, but we know it is 100-percent preventable,” said Carolyn Scanlan, chairperson of the LG Health Board of Trustees. “Lead-Free Families will work to do just that through increased screening, testing and remediating homes across the county.”

The initiative is the first of its kind in the country to be led by a health system, according to LG Health. To provide services through the initiative for the entire county, LG Health’s initial investment of $50 million could be expanded upon in the coming years, said Ripchinski.

“It’s a longitudinal investment not only in the city and the county but also the state,” he said. “We hope that this encourages other health systems, municipalities and counties to put the effort in to engage in state and federal funds to get the led out.”

Monday’s announcement was made at a home in Columbia Borough that will be getting remediation through the program.

Homes built before 1978 have a higher risk of spreading lead poisoning since lead-based paints were banned for use in homes after that year. In Columbia, 54.9% of homes were built before 1939 and over 75% were built prior to 1978, said Columbia Borough Mayor Leo Lutz.

“That’s the enormity of this problem. That’s a huge impact on our community,” he said. “You are removing a lead hazard from thousands of homes and therefore making thousands of families safer.”