More than 1 million children are affected by lead poisoning in the U.S., yet only one-third of parents are very concerned about the health risk, according to an online survey just released by the Ad Council. That's why the council, working with the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is rolling out a national PSA effort to educate parents about the dangers of lead in homes built before 1978.
The campaign, created pro bono by Merkley & Partners, New York, is aimed at parents and caregivers of children 6 years old and younger as well as pregnant women. Lead poisoning is most commonly caused by deteriorating lead-based paint and improper renovation, repair and repainting, which can produce paint chips and dust. If high lead levels are not detected early, they can cause irreversible damage to fetuses and young children, including brain and nervous system damage, behavior and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems and aggressive behavior.
The effort -- which includes TV, radio, print, outdoor and Web advertising in English and Spanish -- shows images of old paint pouring into a child's bottle, cereal bowl and juice cup. Parents are urged to go online at leadfreekids.org, or call 800-424-LEAD.
"Merkley & Partners is proud to play a role in bringing awareness to the issue of lead poisoning. We believe the campaign is arresting, conveys a sense of urgency and will motivate parents and caregivers to act quickly to ensure their young children are safe," said Diane Hernandez, group account director of Merkley & Partners, in announcing the effort.
The online survey found that fewer than 10% of parents surveyed mentioned lead as a health risk. Most parents included cleaners and solvents, electrical outlets and prescription medications as the home hazards they were most concerned about. Lead poisoning ranked second to last.
Conducted in partnership with Lightspeed Research, the online survey sampled 701 adults 18 and older who are parents of children up to age 6 or who were pregnant at the time of the survey, April 2 to 12, 2010. The survey also included an oversample of 469 parents in 10 markets where lead poisoning prevalence is highest.