BALTIMORE (AP) — Maryland’s health department is investigating why records documenting lead poisoning among children in the state were destroyed. 

Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstern tells The Baltimore Sun that the loss of the records is regrettable. He says he’s replaced the department’s lab director pending the outcome of the investigation and that the state will try to recover as many lost test results as possible. 

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The records date back to the 1980s, and were reported to the state by doctors and health clinics whenever children they examined had elevated levels of lead in their blood. 

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Plaintiffs’ lawyers say without the records, it will be hard to pursue lawsuits on behalf of poisoned children. Children who ingest flaking paint chips or dust can suffer reduced intelligence and behavior problems, among other health concerns. 

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