Free lead tests for children in Southside this weekend
UT Chattanooga is giving free lead tests for children in Chattanooga's Southside this weekend as dangerous levels of lead in the soil continue to affect the area.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to test and remove contaminated soil, but health officials recommend having children's blood tested as well.
Since a case in 2011, Doctor Dawn Ford has had the issue of lead contamination on her mind.
"An adult had lead poisoning and ended up in the hospital. And we found that she had a garden in her backyard in South Chattanooga and that's how she got exposed by working in the soil,” she said.
Nearly a decade ago, the EPA started testing and removing lead-contaminated soil from eight Southside neighborhoods. They've tried to get the word out to neighbors, but many are still in the dark.
"It's communication, EPA had been sending letters to households for years, yet we have been going door to door talking to people and many people still don't know about it,” Ford said.
UTC and the Lions Club's free blood testing event on Saturday will be for children under six. Ford says lead contamination is a real possibility for Southside kids.
"Children are the most affected by lead, it's a neurotoxin,” she said. “It affects their development."
Over time, Ford says lead can impact children's development, school performance and behavior. They're trying to get the word out to the community.
"The majority of them are not only not aware of it, but haven't had their kids tested,” she said. “So that's the main concern because it is all about the kids and keeping them safe."
The blood tests normally costs $25 to $50. UTC will be giving them at Howard High School Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The eight impacted neighborhoods are Southside Gardens, Cowart Place, Oak Grove, Alton Park, East Lake, Jefferson Heights, Highland Park and Richmond.