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RISMEDIA, April 21, 2010—According to a national online survey released by the Ad Council, only a third of parents in the United States are very concerned that lead poses a health risk to their children. However, lead poisoning affects more than one million children in the United States. If not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from damage to the brain and nervous system, behavior and learning problems (such as hyperactivity), slowed growth, hearing problems and aggressive behavior.

In an effort to raise awareness of the consequences of lead poisoning among parents and pregnant women who live in homes built before 1978, the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are joining the Ad Council to launch a national multimedia public service advertising (PSA) campaign.

“Lead poisoning is a costly, tragic and irreversible environmental disease that robs children of their ability to reach their full potential – yet it is entirely preventable,” said Ruth Ann Norton, Executive Director of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning. “That is why we teamed with our partners at the EPA, HUD and the Ad Council to launch this national lead poisoning prevention and awareness campaign. Together, we can make lead history.”

The most common pathway for lead poisoning is caused by deteriorating lead-based paint (on older windows, doors and trim, or walls) or through improper renovation, repair and painting activities that cause paint to chip, peel, or flake. Children are frequently poisoned by ingesting lead dust that has accumulated on their hands, fingers, toys, or clothing from lead hazard sources like floors and windowsills.

“Dust from paint containing lead is especially toxic to young children,” said Steve Owens, EPA Assistant Administrator for Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. “Parents can protect their children from exposure to toxic lead paint dust by hiring a lead-safe trained contractor if they live in an older home and plan to renovate or repair.”

The new PSA campaign primarily aims to reach parents and caregivers of children age six and under, and pregnant women, who are at the greatest risk for lead poisoning. The objective is to educate parents about the dangers of lead poisoning so they can take immediate action to safeguard their children.

“To grow up healthy, children need to live in healthy homes, and getting homes tested for lead is an essential part of that process,” said Ron Sims, HUD Deputy Secretary. “There are approximately 38 million U.S. homes that still contain lead-based paint, so it’s important to know the age of your home and get it tested if it was built before 1978.”

The Ad Council’s national survey found that when parents were asked what they were concerned about, only less than 10% mentioned that lead poses a risk to their children’s health. The majority of respondents rated cleaners and solvents, electrical outlets and prescription medicines as the home hazards they are most concerned about, while lead poisoning ranked second to last. Furthermore, among those respondents who used contractors to do renovations, only 38% were confident that they used a lead-safe contractor.

“Our research revealed that childhood lead poisoning is not a top concern among parents,” said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “Our partnership with the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, EPA, and HUD will educate parents about the dangers and empower them to take simple steps to protect their children from lead poisoning.”

For more information, visit www.leadsafe.org, www.epa.gov or www.hud.gov.

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