Director: David Fiess, MPA Phone: (260) 449-7459 FAX: (260) 449-7460 Email: dave.fiess@allencounty.us
Location: 2242 Carroll Rd, Fort Wayne, IN 46818 Hours: 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday
Meet the Staff: Josh Blauvelt, BS, CHHS, Asst. Director; Tom McCue, BS, Env. Health Specialist II; Francis Koch, Env.Technician; Pat De Haven, Secretary; Seasonal Mosquito Technicians

Frequently Asked Questions

What is lead?
Lead is a heavy metal that is found naturally in our environment and is the #1 environmental health threat to children.  Lead was put in paint prior to 1978 because it helped resist moisture damage.  It was also put in gasoline to help the engine run.  Due to lead having a sweet taste, it has been found in candy.

Why should we worry about childhood lead poisoning?

  • If not found early, lead poisoning can cause brain damage and behavioral problems, including loss of intelligence, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and other growth, speech, hearing, and learning problems.
  • In severe cases, lead poisoning can result in seizures, coma and even death.
  • Lead poisoning can cause severe behavioral changes in children such as hyperactivity, lethargy, and irritability.
  • Many children who have been lead poisoned as young children experience problems with learning when they get to school.
  • Some studies have shown that lead-poisoned children have a higher high school dropout rate and a higher likelihood of going to jail than children who have not been lead poisoned.

What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?

  • Most children who are lead poisoned do not have any symptoms.
  • Symptoms that may appear include headaches, stomach aches, loss of appetite, fatigue and crankiness.

Who is most at risk?

Children under the age of 7 are at the most risk for lead poisoning because:

  • Children in this age group do not have a fully-developed blood brain barrier.  Any lead that gets into their bloodstream goes to their brain.  Their brains are not fully developed at this point either so the lead can cause permanent brain damage.
  • Young children are small and they absorb more lead than adults do.
  • They are closer to the ground, like to play on the floor, tend not to wash their hands frequently, and put things in their mouths.  All of these actions increase their exposure to lead.

Pregnant women are also at risk:

  • Women who are exposed to lead during pregnancy can pass the lead directly to their unborn child.

Should I have my child tested for lead poisoning?

If you answer "yes" to any of the following questions, you should have your child tested:

  • Is the child between the ages of 1 - 6 years and eligible for or receiving benefits from WIC and/or Medicaid?
  • Does the child live in or regularly visit a ZIP code determined to be at high risk for lead poisoning (46802, 46806, 46807 or 46808)?
  • Does the child live in or regularly visit a home or day care center built before 1978 with peeling and/or chipping paint?
  • Does the child have a sibling or playmate being treated for lead poisoning?
  • Does the child live with an adult whose job or hobby involves exposure to lead?
  • Does the child live near a busy street, an active lead smelter or other industry likely to release lead?
  • Does the family use imported or glazed ceramics for food preparation, storage or dinnerware?  Are there any home remedies such as thanakha?
  • Does the child have medical findings consistent with lead poisoning?  (This includes developmental and/or speech delays, anemia, hyperactivity, stomach aches, trouble with being potty-trained or undiagnosed seizures.)

Where are the lead hazards found?

Deteriorated Lead-Based Paint

  • Lead-based paint is not a hazard unless it is deteriorated (cracking, chipping, flaking, and chalking).
  • When it starts to deteriorate, the chips, dust, and debris are extremely poisonous to children.

Dust

  • Dust can become contaminated with lead from deteriorated lead-based paint and from soil that is blown or tracked in from outside.
  • Dust can be inhaled when it is in the air or ingested when it is on children's hands, toys, pacifiers, etc.

Soil

  • Soil can be contaminated from lead-based paint chipping and chalking off of old houses, garages, and buildings.  It can also be contaminated near busy streets because of past use in gasoline.

Water

  • Water can be contaminated from lead pipes in the home.

Other Sources

  • Parents' Jobs - If a parent or family member works with lead (home renovators, battery manufacturers, stained glass work, foundry work, etc.), they can bring lead home on their clothes.  Change clothing before coming into the house and wash the clothing separately from other family members' clothing.
  • Toys - Some old toys and furniture can be painted with lead-based paint.  Recently, several new toys (plastic and wood) were painted with lead-based paint or lead was used in the plastic.  Sign up for email alerts from the Department of Health website by clicking here.
  • Jewelry - Expensive and inexpensive jewelry can contain lead.  This is especially dangerous for children who like to put things in their mouths.  Accidentally swallowing a piece of leaded jewelry could result in death.  Keep all jewelry away from young children, even jewelry designed for children unless you know there is no lead in it.
  • Hobbies - Lead is used in some hobbies, such as antique refinishing, making pottery or stained glass, fishing, making bullets, painting model cars, etc.  Change clothing before coming into the house and wash the clothing separately from other family members' clothing.  Do not let children use or play with leaded items.
  • Imported medicines - Some folk or ethnic remedies contain lead, such as thanakha, farouk, pay-loo-ah, and azarcon.
  • Imported candies - Some candies from Mexico may have been contaminated with lead.  Do not give your children candy that could contain lead.

What can be done to prevent childhood lead poisoning?

  • Safely remove lead hazards from the child's environment.
  • Safely repair deteriorated lead-based paint and the debris and dust generated by it.
  • Cover bare patches of dirt in the yard with grass or mulch.
  • Safely clean the house using wet-cleaning methods on a weekly basis being sure to include often overlooked areas like window sills and window wells.
  • Run the cold water in the house for several minutes if it has not been used for 4 hours or more.  Only use the cold water for cooking and drinking - hot water should be used for washing purposes.
  • Wash the child's hands often, especially before eating and after playing outside.
  • Do not allow the child to play in bare dirt.
  • Try to keep your child from chewing or sucking on things that are not meant to be eaten or that you think might not be safe (jewelry, keys, crayons, remote controls, cigarette butts, toys, dirt, sticks, etc.).

Can I bury my pet on my property?
There are certain restrictions on animal disposal in Indiana.  The Indiana Board of Animal Health governs dead animal disposal.  Please review their requirements.

Can I have the tick that bit my child tested for diseases?
Currently, the Fort Wayne - Allen County Department of Health does not have means to have ticks tested for diseases.  We can identify the tick and provide information on what diseases it could carry.  If symptoms appear, a physician can be informed what kind of tick it was and disease the tick could carry.  Then appropriate treatment can occur.

I found a dead bird on my property. What do I do with it?
The Fort Wayne - Allen County Department of Health does not pick up dead birds anymore.  We would like you to still call in with the address where the bird was found.  We use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to map the locations of dead birds and place adult mosquito traps wherever there are clusters of dead birds.  The bird can be picked up by an inverted bag or shovel.  Place the bird in a bag, tie the bag, and place it into another bag.  Then dispose of in the trash.

Are there any laws to force landlords to fix a mold problem?
There are no Federal, State or local laws that pertain to mold cleanup.  There are laws, though, that do regulate structural and plumbing problems.  Landlords are required to maintain the structure and plumbing of your rental unit.  Contact Fort Wayne Neighborhood Code Enforcement at 311 (if your rental unit is in the City of Fort Wayne) to report structural or plumbing problems.  Mold will not grow if there is no water.

Can my dog or cat get West Nile virus?
Yes, but infection rates are low.  West Nile virus rarely causes severe illness in dogs and cats.  You should be more concerned with dog heartworm infecting your pet.  Mosquitoes, like Aedes vexans and Aedes trivittatus, can transmit dog heartworm to your pet.  That is why it is important to put your pet on a heartworm treatment during the summer.

How can I properly cover my swimming pool?
A firm, solid cover or a wood frame with a peak in the middle with a tarp over it can be placed over the pool.  Water should not be able to collect in the tarp.  Mosquitoes that can carry West Nile virus like to breed in sagging tarps that collect water and leaves.

Where can I get rid of my unwanted tires?
There are several tire business that take tires for a small fee.  Click here for a list.  The Fort Wayne - Allen County Department of Health does not endorse any of the companies listed.

Can I have poison bait for the mice in my house?
No.  Poison bait is placed around the outside of the house in burrows or bait stations to kill rats.  We recommend using snap or glue traps inside the house because children or pets could access the bait or the rodents could die in the walls.

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Photo Gallery

Click thumbnail to see large image.
  • Trina Riecke, Lead Case Manager, conducts a developmental assessment of a lead-poisoned child.
  • Lucky the Lead Free Lemur is a mascot of the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.  He appears at health fairs and other events to promote lead prevention.
  • This engorged American Dog Tick was pulled off a human.  To prevent tick attachment, wear light-colored clothing, long pants with the bottoms placed into the top of socks, and apply a DEET-product to your clothing.  Check your clothing and body after exiting a high grass or wooded area.
  • De-rimmed tires breed mosquitoes and can provide drinking water for rats.  Culex species, ones that can carry WNv, and Ae. triseriatus, carrier of LaCrosse Encephalitis, use tires as a habitat when in the larval form.  The sun heats the black rubber allowing for increased mosquito production, even when it is cool out.  Tires should be properly disposed of or covered to prevent mosquito breeding.
  • A female Culex mosquito laying an egg raft, which can consist of 200-300 eggs.
  • A blood sample to be tested for lead is taken from a capillary in the tip of the finger.
  • Mold needs water to grow.  Remove the water source and there won't be a mold problem.
  • The American dog tick is the largest tick in Indiana and can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
  • Children enjoy meeting Lucky the Lead Free Lemur.
  • Sticky traps are a great tool to catch cockroaches.
  • Trina Riecke educates a citizen about how to maintain a healthy and safe home.
  • Rats like to eat grease, as can be seen in the pan on the stove.
  • Educating the public on Vector-borne diseases is an on-going effort.
  • Ae. triseriatus, a carrier of LaCrosse Encephalitis, lays her eggs in treeholes and containers.
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Cockroach infestation in kitchen cabinet.
  • Mosquitofish can be placed into ornamental ponds to eat mosquito larvae.  The fish only get to be an inch in length.
  • Un-maintained swimming pools are perfect for breeding the mosquitoes that can carry West Nile virus.
  • Double whammy for mosquito breeding - uncovered boat with un-rimmed tire in it.
  • Notice the pop can the rats tried pulling into a burrow.
  • This rat ate poison bait stored in a secure station.
  • Bed bugs do not transmit diseases, but their bites can become infected if scratched too much.
  • Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Free radon test kits are available at the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health.
  • Ingredients taken from a meth lab that was found in a house.
Did You Know?

Lead poisoning can cause brain damage in young children.