Lead poisoning in the US: ‘A silent epidemic’
Why are hundreds of children in the US still being poisoned by lead every year?
Al Jazeera, Sept 1, 2016
Standing in front of a room of community members in southeast Cleveland, Robin Brown recalled the day more than 15 years ago that she received a call from the family doctor. She was told to bring her daughter to the hospital immediately — the doctor’s office had just received her child’s test results.
«I could look at my daughter and see no illness. But at any second, she could have gone into that coma, she could’ve gone into seizures, or she could’ve dropped dead at any second,» Brown says.
She would later find out that her daughter had dangerous levels of lead in her blood, an amount Brown refers to as an «emergency state».
Over the coming months, she came to understand that her four-year-old daughter had ingested chipped paint in their rental home — something common among young children. That old paint was filled with lead and absorbed into her daughter’s blood.
Brown is an African-American Cleveland native and until that day, she had no idea what lead could do to the body of a child. Her child.
The Flint water crisis that unfolded in 2015 outraged the public as well as federal officials. But at that time, Cleveland had almost three times the amount of children suffering from lead poisoning.
Across the country, the main source of lead poisoning is lead paint in older homes. When the paint starts peeling and chipping away, it can put lead dust into the air and soil. Cleveland, like many older US cities, has tens of thousands of homes that are potential lead hazards.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer, published an investigative series on the devastating effects lead has had on Cleveland’s children and the failure of the city to prevent children from getting poisoned.
Public records showed years of mismanagement and chronic understaffing. The series pointed out that at least 10,000 children had suffered lead poisoning in the past five years. African-American and Latino-majority neighbourhoods were hardest hit.
|Ebony Holmes and her husband could not see the lead inside their son’s blood, but they saw Joshua’s behaviour change dramatically.|
Ebony Holmes and her husband moved into a rental home in the city just a few years ago. They had no warning about potential lead hazards and, within a year, they said they couldn’t recognise their son — he had become aggressive and uncontrollable. An inspection carried out later by the city would show that a number of areas in the house and yard had high levels of lead.
At two years old, their son, Joshua, had to be treated in hospital for high levels of lead in his blood. Holmes’ voice is heavy when she speaks about that time.
«I cried a lot. That’s the only thing I could say, I cried a lot,» she says. «My emotions were going all over the place. »
Holmes described what so many families, especially lower-income, go through. «You have parents who don’t have an idea about lead poisoning. They move in these neighbourhoods where they can afford their budgets and they’re not thinking about their kid’s health. They’re just trying to get a roof over their heads. And the sad part about is, the kids pay for it.»
The Holmes family had to move immediately and Joshua’s lead levels have come down since. But they are not sure what effects Joshua might face later in his life because of the lead in his system.
Studies have shown that lead, especially at higher levels, can cause irreversible brain damage in children. Children who have been exposed to lead poisoning are more likely to have lower IQs, long-term health problems, be diagnosed with ADHD — attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — and exhibit aggressive behaviour.
Children are the most susceptible to lead poisoning because their bodies absorb the toxic metal at higher rates than adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, estimates that more than half a million children aged under five in the United States suffer from lead poisoning.
In cities such as Cleveland, a child can still be affected by lead poisoning every day. And it is wholly preventable.
More than 50 percent of homes where children are affected by lead poisoning had not been investigated by the city, a requirement under state law. Reporters obtained a list of about 200 homes where multiple children had been poisoned over several years.
«[The city’s] basic responsibility was to respond to these cases, do an investigation, and follow the law to make sure that the owner of the home complied with the law, which was to get rid of the lead hazard, or take them to court so that nobody else could live there,» Dissell told Fault Lines. «And that was not being done».
There is an added complication with tenants — they may fear eviction from landlords if they report the problem or they might simply move without the house ever getting fixed. Landlords themselves may not have the funds or the knowledge to deal with the lead.
Cleveland has relied almost exclusively on federal funding for lead-hazard control but missed out on some of those dollars for several years due to mismanagement. Overall, federal funds towards lead-poisoning prevention across the country have been cut drastically since 2012.
In this time, Cleveland has fallen severely behind in addressing the issue: there was a backlog of more than 2,000 cases as of July. There is also no requirement to disclose lead in homes before a sale, nor does the city offer any public list of lead-free homes.
In mid-August, Toledo, another city in the state of Ohio, passed a new «lead-safe ordinance». It will require inspections in rental units where children can be most at-risk for lead exposure.
Cleveland has yet to pass any such ordinance, despite having more lead poisoning cases than any other city in Ohio.
Правительство США жестоко нарушало мои права человека при проведении кампании террора, которая заставила меня покинуть свою родину и получить политическое убежище в СССР. См. книгу «Безмолвный террор — История политических гонений на семью в США» — «Silent Terror: One family’s history of political persecution in the United States» — http://arnoldlockshin.wordpress.com
Правительство США еще нарушает мои права, в течении более 12 лет отказывается от выплаты причитающейся мне пенсии по старости. Властители США воруют пенсию!! Всё это — ещё доказательство, что настоящий действующий закон в США — Закон джунглей.
ФСБ — Федеральная служба «безопасности» России — вслед за позорным, предавшим страну предшественником КГБ, выполняет приказы секретного, кровавого хозяина (boss) — американского ЦРУ (CIA). Среди таких «задач» — запретить меня выступать в СМИ и не пропускать отправленных мне комментариев. А это далеко не всё…
Арнольд Локшин, политэмигрант из США