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Onondaga County debuts mobile lead testing van

More than a dozen people stand in front of a colorful van
Emma Murphy
Onondaga County has a new mobile lead testing van to help in efforts to offset lead exposure in children

Onondaga County has a new mobile lead testing van, aimed at helping and educating more families about the risks their children may be exposed to.

According to 2021 data, about one in 10 children in Syracuse has elevated blood lead levels, which can cause major health issues, including developmental delays. That's why, says Onondaga County Health Commissioner Kathryn Anderson says as much testing as possible is imperative, especially for kids aged one to two.

"While they’re recommended to be getting blood lead screening and testing, there are gaps" she said at the van's unveiling on Monday. "This is intended not to replace the physicians, but to fill in the gaps.”

The mobile van will take scheduled appointments and walk-ins. Children will first receive a finger poke rapid test and if elevated lead levels are detected, they’ll receive blood work, says Anderson, and more.

“If it’s elevated to a very high degree, which is rare but does happen in our community, they may require treatment, said the County Health Commissioner. "Certainly the next steps would be harm reduction in the home, and hazard mitigation.”

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon says increased testing will help identify the areas that need the most financial resources for mitigation, which primarily includes removing lead from paint, doors, and windows in the area's many old homes.

“We do know that certain parts of our community have elevated blood lead levels, specifically in the city of Syracuse because we have an older housing stock," said McMahon. "So once we understand that and we know that that’s an issue we have dollars available to go and mitigate those risks.”

County Officials say the van will start appearing at events such as health fairs or back-to-school gatherings in the coming weeks.