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A new children’s book aims to advise N.H. families on avoiding lead poisoning at home

Concord Pediatrics - book to toddler - pilot study.jpg
Christine Arsnow, MD, Vice President of NH Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics, and a pediatrician at Concord Pediatrics, hands the board book Happy, Healthy, Lead-Free Me! to one of her young patients.

The board book is available at many pediatric offices. Kids should be tested for lead at ages one and two.

The Department of Health and Human Services will release Happy, Healthy, Lead-Free Me!, a new children's book about lead poisoning prevention.

The book has 23 pages of illustrations and emphasizes the importance of bringing a kid to an annual medical examination, in part to prevent lead poisoning. The book also gives parents a closer look at why lead can become a danger.

“Research has shown a book is more effective than conversations and pamphlets to bring prevention messaging to parents,” said Gail Gettens, co-author of the book.

She and co-author Knatalie Vetter are mothers who have dedicated part of their careers to educating families about lead.

“Lead can change the trajectory of a life; there are no symptoms, there are no signs, it’s under the radar,” said Gettens. That’s part of why she made a book about such an unconventional topic for children.

It took two years to produce the book, which received funding from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Before publishing, it passed through a series of rounds of feedback from parents.

The DHHS Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program has distributed 13,000 books across New Hampshire to pediatricians, family medicine physicians, community health care centers, and rural health clinics.

WIC's (Women, Infants, and Children) supplemental nutrition program has also distributed 7,800 books to their clinics statewide. The providers hand these books, printed with lead-free inks, to families with young children during the 9 – 12 month well child check visits.

“If not detected, [lead] can produce difficulties to read, “ said Gettens, who also identified other potential negative long-term effects.

A digital version is also available, where parents can find extra resources, like videos and booklets, about housing laws and what to do if children become poisoned.

One of the reading materials informs parents that houses and apartments built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint or dust.

“Very few people understand that lead dust will result in brain damage,” said Gettens.

Allison Valentine, who has received a distinguished award from the Association for Educational Publishers for her colorful artwork, provided the illustrations.

The digital book is available in seven languages: English, Nepali, Spanish, Dari, Portuguese, Swahili, and Chuukese.

Gettens say they wanted the book to be as available and accessible to all Granite Staters.

You can download a free copy at www.leadfree.me

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