A state health official will be speaking on Tuesday afternoon in Augusta about the risks of lead poisoning in southern Kennebec County.

The forum discussion is being organized by Healthy Communities of the Capital Area, a health group that is starting a five-year project to raise awareness about the risks of lead poisoning in the Augusta and Gardiner areas.

Lead is a toxin sometimes found in older homes. Lead dust from old paint is the most common way children get lead poisoning, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It is especially harmful to children under 6 and can lead to learning disabilities, behavioral problems and hearing damage. Paint made before 1978 contained lead.

Children are exposed to lead when lead dust collects on surfaces where they put their hands or play with toys and then put their hands into their mouths, according to the Maine CDC.

A blood test can determine whether a child had lead poisoning.

Augusta recently has been deemed a high-risk location for childhood lead poisoning, based on new blood-level standards set by Maine lawmakers in 2015.

Lawmakers approved lowering the standard of lead poisoning from 15 to 5 micrograms per deciliter, which is the level recommended by federal health authorities.

Under the new standard, an estimated 6.8 percent of children in Augusta had lead poisoning between 2010 and 2014, according to data collected by the Maine CDC.

That rate was lower than Lewistion-Auburn’s 8.3 percent, but higher than rates in Portland, Biddeford and Bangor.

Karyn Butts, who works for Maine CDC’s lead poisoning prevention program, will speak Tuesday at the forum along with two members of Healthy Communities of the Capital Area.

The event will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Buker Community Center.

The speakers will discuss the risk of lead poisoning in the Augusta and Gardiner areas, how to prevent lead poisoning among children, how to test for lead dust in the home and how landlords can maintain properties that are safe from lead contamination.

Healthy Communities of the Capital Area is conducting the project with funds from the state’s lead poisoning prevention program. It’s trying to develop a coalition of groups and individuals who can help in the effort.

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