Ending the Exposure

As noted above, the US CDC recommends that health officials should respond to a child found with a test result greater than or equal to 5 micrograms per deciliter of lead in blood. At this level of exposure the US CDC recommends public health officials should: conduct investigations to determine the source of lead in their environments; take steps to control or eliminate the source, and repeat testing for a period of weeks to months (depending on how high the level is) to make sure that the level is not going up.[23]

These children should also be tested for iron deficiency and any nutritional deficiencies corrected, because adequate intake of iron, calcium and vitamin C can minimize absorption of ingested lead.[24]

Public health interventions for eliminating the source of exposure is challenging in settings like Lower Klity Creek village, where lead is found in the main source of drinking water and in important sources of protein and nutrition. Provincial public health authorities have exhorted local residents to stop consuming water and fish and aquatic animals from the creek.[25] However, for many Lower Klity Creek residents it is difficult to follow such advice when they are unable to access other water sources, or afford other food.

Much of the compensation money awarded after the supreme administrative court decision was donated by the plaintiffs to help fund the expansion of the existing system of pipes bringing clean water to houses in the village. But even now the piped water does not reach every house in the village. Older pipes or joints in the system frequently break, leaving individuals with no water and no choice other than to use and consume contaminated water from the creek. Farmers—both men and women—must drink water from the creek when they travel out to their fields.

In the case of Klity Creek, prevention of lead exposure requires a comprehensive clean-up—just as the supreme administrative court clearly ordered.