Quantcast

America's Lead Poisoning Problem Is Everywhere

Health + Wellness

Flint's water crisis has dominated headlines in the past month, as more and more details of the "man-made disaster" continue to come to light each day. But Flint is "just the tip of the iceberg," as famed environmental activist Erin Brockovich put it in an interview with Stephen Colbert last week.

According to a Washington Post article published Thursday, an "untold" number of U.S. cities have higher rates of lead poisoning than Flint.

The Washington Post reported:

Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] shows that over 40 percent of the states that reported lead test results in 2014 have higher rates of lead poisoning among children than Flint.

In Flint, 4 percent of kids aged five and under tested with blood-lead levels of at least five micrograms per deciliter, the threshold of lead intake that necessitates public health action, as defined by the federal government.

Elsewhere in the country, 12 states reported that a greater percentage of kids under six years old met or surpassed that threshold. The most egregious example is Pennsylvania, where 8.5 percent of the children tested were found to have dangerously high levels of lead in their blood.

And the problem could be much worse because very few children have even been tested for elevated lead levels.

The Washington Post said:

Only 27 states (including Washington, DC) reported childhood blood lead surveillance results to the CDC’s national database for 2014, the most recent statistical set available.

These represent just a slice of the infant population. In Texas, for instance, only 184 kids were tested for lead poisoning. The state’s population of kids under six exceeds 2 million.

On the federal level, then, there is no comprehensive understanding of the extent to which the population is being exposed to hazardous amounts of lead. While the percentage of children with more than 5 micrograms per deciliter of lead has been steadily declining, the CDC says no blood-lead level in children has been determined to be “safe.”

Flint may have in recent months become synonymous with lead contamination in America, but it is by no means the only—or the most extreme —example of how the toxic element can make its way into our bodies.

Take Cleveland for example. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the number of children in Cleveland exposed to lead is 2.5 times the number of children poisoned in Flint at the height of the crisis.

"And those are only the children who get tested," the Plain Dealer said. "Most don't get screened for the toxin, recommended for all kids under the age of six because of the high prevalence of lead paint in the city's housing."

Experts say the most common source of lead poisoning is lead-based paints, which can be found in older homes across the country.

Read page 1

Eleven New Jersey cities and several cities in Michigan have higher rates of lead poisoning than Flint, "again, not from the water but old paint and soil contaminated by factory emissions from yesteryears," The Washington Post explained.

Louisiana, Alabama, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana and Oklahoma are just some of the other states that have counties with lead levels higher than Flint's, according to Vox. One county in Alabama—Houston County—found that seven of the 12 children it tested had lead poisoning in 2014, which the CDC defines as kids who have more than five micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood.

As for what's being done to address the problem, local groups and politicians are working to hold agencies accountable for monitoring lead exposure and trying to get money allocated to remove lead from old homes.

"At a press conference in Trenton, New Jersey, this week, a coalition of groups led by community development nonprofit Isles, Inc. urged Gov. Chris Christie to devote $10 million towards the Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund, which oversees the removal of lead from old homes and other lead abatement projects," The Washington Post reported.

In Ohio, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown announced last week he will introduce legislation to address the threat of lead exposure in the water supply after news broke of lead poisoning in the tap water of residents of Sebring, Ohio. Brown criticized the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for failing to tell Sebring residents for five months that their water was contaminated with lead.

The new legislation would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to notify the public of dangerous lead levels in their water within 15 days, and to put a cleanup plan into place within six months. The current law gives the state Environmental Protection Agency 18 months to enact a corrosion control plan to clean up lead from toxic water supplies, Sen. Brown told The Plain Dealer.

Cleveland City Council also held its third hearing since December on the city's lead poisoning problem. "The main task the city faces is sorting through a backlog of 3,000 lead poisoning cases identified by the Ohio Department of Health that have yet to be entered into the state's tracking system," the Plain Dealer reported.

Overall, "monitoring of lead exposure is hugely inadequate—even though it remains a significant problem, especially in the country's most vulnerable communities," Vox said. While blood lead levels have decreased dramatically in the last few decades, it's still a serious problem.

"There is no standard for how states should administer their childhood lead surveillance programs, and testing isn't mandatory, despite the fact that," according to Vox, "the CDC has said 'no safe blood level in children has been identified.'"

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Are Toxic Fragrances Making You Sick?

Michael Moore: 10 Things They Won’t Tell You About the Flint Water Tragedy, But I Will

Erin Brockovich to Stephen Colbert: ‘Flint, Michigan Is the Tip of the Iceberg’

Another Lead Water Poisoning Scandal Has Erupted, This Time in Ohio

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

PhotoAlto / Laurence Mouton / Getty Images

By Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD

You've probably heard the buzz around collagen supplements and your skin by now. But is the hype really that promising? After all, research has pointed to both the benefits and downsides of collagen supplements — and for many beauty-conscious folk, collagen isn't vegan.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Marlene Cimons

Neil Pederson's introduction to tree rings came from a "sweet and kindly" college instructor, who nevertheless was "one of the most boring professors I'd ever experienced," Pederson said. "I swore tree rings off then and there." But they kept coming back to haunt him.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Aerial view of the explosion site of a chemical factory on March 22 in Yancheng, Jiangsu Province of China. Caixin Media / VCG / Getty Images)

At least 47 people have died in an explosion at a plant in Yancheng, China Thursday run by a chemical company with a history of environmental violations, Sky News reported.

Read More Show Less
A fishmonger in Elmina, a fishing port in the Central Region of Ghana. Environmental Justice Foundation

By Daisy Brickhill

Each morning, men living in fishing communities along Ghana's coastline push off in search of the day's catch. But when the boats come back to shore, it's the women who take over.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Sam Nickerson

Links between excess sugar in your diet and disease have been well-documented, but new research by Harvard's School of Public Health might make you even more wary of that next soda: it could increase your risk of an early death.

The study, published this week in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation, found that drinking one or two sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) each day — like sodas or sports drinks — increases risk of an early death by 14 percent.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Krystal B / Flickr

Tyson Foods is recalling approximately 69,093 pounds of frozen chicken strips because they may have been contaminated with pieces of metal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Thursday.

The affected products were fully-cooked "Buffalo Style" and "Crispy" chicken strips with a "use by" date of Nov. 30, 2019 and an establishment number of "P-7221" on the back of the package.

"FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers' freezers," the recall notice said. "Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase."

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Hrefna Palsdottir, MS

Cold cereals are an easy, convenient food.

Read More Show Less
A tractor spraying a field with pesticides in Orem, Utah. Aqua Mechanical / CC BY 2.0

Environmental exposure to pesticides, both before birth and during the first year of life, has been linked to an increased risk of developing autism spectrum disorder, according to the largest epidemiological study to date on the connection.

The study, published Wednesday in BMJ, found that pregnant women who lived within 2,000 meters (approximately 1.2 miles) of a highly-sprayed agricultural area in California had children who were 10 to 16 percent more likely to develop autism and 30 percent more likely to develop severe autism that impacted their intellectual ability. If the children were exposed to pesticides during their first year of life, the risk they would develop autism went up to 50 percent.

Read More Show Less