As the national organization representing more than 8,500 pediatric-focused advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) committed to providing optimal health care to children, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) is deeply concerned about the short and long-term effects of lead exposure for the residents of Flint. Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) and other licensed APRNs that focus on children’s health care have achieved enhanced education in pediatric nursing and health care using evidence-based practice guidelines. We have been providing quality health care for more than 40 years, reaching millions of children and families in a wide range of practice settings including hospitals, schools, clinics and pediatric offices. As primary care providers for infants, children and adolescents, we are acutely aware of the severity of the current crisis, and our members are qualified and capable of helping to expand children’s access to screening, diagnosis and treatment they so urgently need.
This crisis is affecting thousands of children and their families, and addressing it demands a significant and sustained commitment of financial support and other resources to provide on-going screening and healthcare, improving infrastructure and providing education and academic support for generations. The magnitude of the impact from this exposure is likely to be difficult to assess, given that some symptoms may go unrecognized for years.
As advanced practice nurses with a specialized focus on children’s care, we know that evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates there is no safe blood lead level for children – even minute amounts of lead as low as 5 micrograms per deciliter can negatively impact a child’s IQ and attentiveness, and those effects are irreversible. A developing fetus, exposed from lead crossing the placental barrier, and young children under the age of six, are particularly vulnerable given the significant growth and development of their brains and nervous systems.
NAPNAP strongly supports the appropriation of state financial resources sufficient to respond to this crisis in a comprehensive manner. The magnitude of the current situation demands a responsible long-term, holistic strategy to ensure that Flint children and families have timely, affordable access to ongoing screening, tracking, education and supports, now and for years to come. We urge policy makers to take prompt and decisive action to address this crisis in a comprehensive manner.