BALTIMORE, Maryland. An estimated 85,087 occupied homes in Baltimore have “dangerous lead hazards.” recent report from the Abell Foundation, a local public policy think tank. Solving the problem will cost between $ 2.5 billion and $ 4.2 billion, the report said.

To meet this need, “huge resources are required from federal, state and local financiers, as well as coordination at various levels of government and the private sector,” wrote Luke Scrivener, author of the study.

Lead is a neurotoxin that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is not safe. blood lead levels in children. The potential consequences of its impact are huge. Conditions that result include, but are not limited to, ADHD, decreased IQ, anemia, seizures, renal failure, and cerebral edema. At the societal level, high levels of lead exposure correlate with increased crime and imprisonment, lower earning potential, poorer performance, and shorter life expectancy.

The number of children who tested positive for elevated blood levels in Baltimore has dropped staggeringly 97 percent from 1992 to 2016. But this achievement means little to the rest of the children and their families, who may be dealing with mood swings, hearing loss and poor control of lead impulses.

According to the Maryland Department of the Environment, the lead-based hazard in Baltimore is 78 percent of the rest of the risk of lead exposure. Hazard control, a less stringent standard for lead paint intervention, is just a fixed solution that will cost between $ 851 million and $ 1.4 billion, Scrivener said.

Having taken a measure to ban lead paint in the village 1950Baltimore stands out as the American city that has long fought for the elimination of lead.

“Blood lead levels have dropped significantly because a number of policies have been adopted regarding paint, dust, soil, water, food, air and so on,” said David Jacobs, chief scientist. National Center for Healthy Housing. “And this policy has worked, but we still need to do much more to finish the job.

“We’re not quite there yet,” he said.

Lida’s long poisonous story

Lead exposure has a long history. The ancient Greeks and Romans used lead, a malleable, rust-resistant and naturally occurring element, to create water pipes and containers. Later, lead paint was used on artists’ canvases, as well as in the interiors and exteriors of houses because of its durability. Leaded gasoline was introduced in the 1920s, and car exhaust particles, in addition to air pollution, drifted to the ground and mixed with dust and soil where people, especially children, could swallow or inhale it.

For most of the time that lead was in use, its dangers were recognized. The ancients thought it caused constipation and “pale color». Prior to the Industrial Revolution her professional dangers were so well known that they were mentioned in the works of Charles Dickens and Benjamin Franklin. In the early 20th century, scientists unsuccessfully protested against the addition of lead to gasoline, which today still contributes lead levels in the Americans. Lead paint in homes and office buildings was commonplace. And for decades, the study of its health effects has been largely dominated by research sponsored by leading industry, which stifled scientific repercussions about its risks until the 1960s.

The lead level is there sharply reduced over the past few decades through a combination of legislation, testing, education and rehabilitation. Today, at least in the United States, much of the remaining exposure risk comes from paint in the home. This occurs mainly when the paint is damaged and mixed with dust, such as when painted surfaces are scraped off when opening or closing windows and doors or when people walk up and down stairs. This can also happen if homes are renovated or refurbished without proper precautions. It is also known that children eat chips of lead paint that has a sweet taste.

Children absorb lead into the blood four or five times faster than adults. And black people absorb lead more efficiently than whiteshowed a study exposing them to particular risk.

Calcium, which can help protect against lead poisoningalso more effectively absorbed in blacks, as studies show, but blacks living in cities tend to be calcium deficient and therefore less protected.

“If you, on average, absorb calcium better and live in a lead environment, you will have a higher concentration of lead in your blood,” said Bruce Lanfer, a professor at Simon Fraser University who studied the link. between the absorption of lead and races.

Lanphear was also a co-author 1996 study who found that black households contained “much larger” amounts of lead dust than whites.

У Going Around: The Epidemiology of Child Lead Poisoning, 1950-1990. Barbara Bernie, Honored Associate Professor of the School of Public Health at New York City University, described the link between housing, race and health.

“Lead poisoning occurred as a result of poor housing conditions,” she wrote. “Blacks were driven into poor housing through discrimination. Housing was allowed to collapse due to a split between landlords and city housing officials, who did little to address the problem or health of the affected children. ”

“We know how to solve this problem”

In Baltimore, 966 homes have been reported to pose a risk of lead exposure, although a report by the Abel Foundation suggests that the actual number could be in the tens of thousands. According to the report, the cost of reducing lead in homes with known hazards will range from $ 9.7 million to $ 16.4 million, while reducing emissions will cost between $ 29 and $ 48.3 million.

The Abell study says most leading home inspections and hazard documentation occur in response to cases in children whose blood tests show elevated levels of lead in the blood.

“The fact is that most homes have not been inspected for the danger of lead paint,” Jacobs said of housing across the country.

Getting lead

Landlords in Maryland are to meet minimum reduction standard for lead paint in rented premises built before 1978, the year when lead paint was banned in the United States. But they are not always to the task at hand.

Camilla Burke, director of the Baltimore City Department of Health’s Child Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, said the city sometimes files lawsuits to “push the owner to what he should do”.

Despite the reluctance of some landlords, the lease still has more protected lead protection than the houses occupied by the owners, said Joshua Scharfstein, deputy dean of health at Johns Hopkins University.

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Removing lead from low-income housing is a huge, huge opportunity not only for health and stability, but also for the transmission of wealth between generations, ”said Ruth Ann Norton, president and CEO of the company. Green and Healthy Home Initiative.Baltimore Nonprofit, an organization dedicated to reducing health hazards in residential areas.

Although lead rehabilitation techniques have improved over the years, it can still be an incredibly expensive investment for families. According to Burke, projects to reduce lead emissions can range from $ 5,000 to $ 100,000. And it can cost much more, depending on the age of the home.

“Landlords can deduct lead elimination costs as business costs. But if you’re a homeowner, low-income or otherwise, you can’t do that. So it doesn’t seem fair, ”Jacobs said.

Baltimore’s main source of funding for lead intervention comes from the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Lead Hazard Control. In 2019, the city received $ 9.7 million in grants, but they have limitations, such as for what type of housing they can be used. Grants are also aimed at short-term fixes, as opposed to emission reduction projects.

“Even with increasing allocations from the federal government, the city is only scratching the surface of the widespread danger of lead paint,” said Scrivener, author of the study Abella.

Other sources of funding include Medicare and Medicaid. Scrivener also suggested that Baltimore could follow suit Families without lead in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is a 10-year initiative to prevent lead poisoning in children with $ 50 million and the first to be fully funded by the health care system.

“What happens in this community is pretty instantaneous,” said Norton, whose organization helped develop the initiative. When the lead decreases, “You start to see changes in reading scores in six years, and you start to see how the earnings ratios change in ten years [to a] a decade and a half. “

“We know how to solve this problem,” Jacobs said. “Technology is there. We just have to implement them. “

As Burke said, “Having a safe and healthy place to live is what we all deserve.”

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