Black People Deal With the Impact of Childhood Lead Poisoning Well Into Adulthood
New research reveals a troubling correlation between lead exposure and incarceration
This is The Color of Climate, a weekly column from OneZero exploring how climate change and other environmental issues uniquely impact the future of communities of color.
Remember the water crisis in Flint, Michigan? Even though it began in 2014, there are still families there who bathe their children in bottled water warmed on the stove because the tap water remains contaminated by lead. And the majority of people in Flint who have been affected by lead exposure are Black.
Flint’s residents aren’t alone. Several other American cities with large Black populations have experienced widespread problems with lead exposure because of racist housing policies like redlining. In Oakland, 23 schools were found to have at least one tap with lead levels higher than the federal and state standard between September 2017 and March 2018. Detroit in 2017 had the highest rates of lead poisoning in children out of all the cities in Michigan — 8.8% of all children in the city. In one Detroit zip code, the rate reached 22%. In East Chicago, Indiana, residents of a housing project learned in 2016 that they’ve been living on soil that’s had toxic levels of lead for decades. Last year, a report from Case Western Reserve University found that kids in Cleveland had lead poisoning levels that were greater than or higher than those of kids in Flint.
Now, experts are finding that childhood lead exposure has health consequences that have serious impacts on every stage of life.
Another group of researchers at Case Western has been examining the long-term effects of lead exposure on children in Cleveland, where lead paint in old buildings is a major source of lead poisoning. They published their research in late June.