Some pregnant women, children urged to get tested for lead poisoning

The discovery of toxic soil in North Birmingham is fueling fears of possible lead poisoning. All pregnant women and children under six years of age in Harriman Park, Collegeville and Fairmont neighborhoods are urged to undergo free blood testing.

Fliers being distributed throughout those communities say simply touching the contaminated soil can expose people to lead poisoning.

"You know how kids play in dirt? That's not going to happen. That's not going to happen," said Tywanda Ginwright, a grandmother who moved into Collegeville eight months ago.

At Ginwright's house, her grandchildren have strict rules for playing outside."No shoes, no play," she said.

Her rules go back to the EPA's soil testing for pollutants from nearby Walter Coke Energy."They started from the back of the fence, walked four feet in, did the testing," said Ginwright showing where the samples were taken from her yard.

The reason for caution is because of what's inside Ginwright's yellow envelope from the EPA.'Tested my soil and it came back highly toxic," she said.

Soil throughout Collegeville, Harriman Park and Fairmont came back with high levels of lead. Just touching it could expose children, pregnant women and their unborn children to lead poisoning."Everybody knows to wash your hands, especially little ones," said Keisha Brown, a mother and vice president of the Harriman Park Neighborhood Association.

But lead poisoning can lead to growth issues, neurological problems and death.

Brown doesn't want to take a chance with her son's life, so he's already been tested. There will be a chance for other children under six and pregnant women to be tested for lead Tuesday."Pricked his finger and drew a little blood, so very, very simple. It's nothing that's going to hurt them," she said.

Many hope the test just may save a life.

"Need it. Need it. Need it now," said Ginwright.

The Jefferson County Department of Health will conduct the free blood tests at Harriman Park Recreation Center Tuesday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.. It is for pregnant women and children under six who live or spend a lot of time in Harriman Park, Fairmont and Collegeville. The rec center is located at 4347 Shuttlesworth Drive.