Children in 3,000 US Communities Have Lead Poisoning Levels Higher Than Flint
Reuters reveals children in nearly 3,000 U.S. communities have lead poisoning levels higher than Flint Michigan
While lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan remains a national news headline an exclusive Reuters report reveals that children in nearly 3,000 U.S. communities have children with lead poisoning levels higher than the percentage of children poisoned in Flint.
In fact, all of the communities Reuters investigated had lead levels at least two times higher than Flint’s and more than 1,000 were four times higher.
According to the Reuters elevated lead levels in children’s blood tests were widespread in 21 states of the states the responded to Reuters request.
Those 21 states hold 60% of the U.S. population and after digging further into the data available on Reuters interactive map, HNN found that only 34 states in total responded to Reuters’s request for lead poisoning rates in children. (Spreadsheet: Reuters Lead Poisoning Data Summary)
Of the states that provided lead poisoning levels in children 16 states provided state level poisoning rates and 18 provided detailed local level poisoning rates. Reuters did not provide state wide poisoning levels for the states it obtained local data for.
In the states that did provide local lead poisoning rates the levels astronomically high levels lead poisoning, in some areas higher than 1 in every 2 children, were observed. The data shows lead poisoning clusters in many census districts in inner city areas which reported the lead levels of blood tests of children tested to Reuters.
However, while there were certain high areas of concentration in inner cities the local data showed the lead poisoning problem is not limited to urban areas.
In fact, every state that reported local data showed elevated levels of lead poisoning in children’s blood tests in all census tracts across the entire state.
States that provided local level lead poisoning rates in children are CO, CT, IL, IN, IA, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, NM, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TX and WI and images of their lead poisoning rates are embedded below.
States that provided state level blood tests on lead poisoning rates in children are AL, AZ, DE, FL, GA, KS, KY, LA, NV, NH, NJ, NC, OR, VT, WA and WV.
In those states, state wide the percentage of children tested that showed elevated lead poisoning rates are: Alabama: 4.5%, Arizona: 1.1%, Delaware: 2.8%, Florida: 3%, Georgia: 3.5%, Kansas: 5.6%, Kentucky: 4.5%, Louisiana: 6.5%, Nevada: 1.5%, New Hampshire: 5.6%, New Jersey: 3.6%, North Carolina: 2.9%, Oregon: 2.7%, Vermont: 8.6%, Washington: 2.7%, West Virginia: 3.8%,
The states that provided no data are AK, AR, CA, DC, HI, ID, ME, MS, MT, NE, NY, ND, SD, TN, UT, VA and WY.
Child lead poisoning rates in the United States
A nationwide map of the rates is below, followed by state level maps. Note the areas in white provided no data and the solid color states only provided state wide poisoning rates.
In every state that provided local level results that are stunning areas of high levels of lead poisoning in local census districts in each of those states.
Cleveland shows lead poisoning rates as high as 1 in 2 children’s blood tests
Nearly all of Philadelphia’s water is poisoned – White/Gray areas did not report
PA shows effected census tracts across the state with some areas having 1 out of 2 children poisoned
Child Lead Poisoning rates up to 1 in 4 in Colorado and New Mexico
Widespread lead poisoning rates in Texas up to 1 in 4 children across the state
Lead poisoning in blood Tests in children widespread across Oklahoma
Widespread lead poisoning in children across Missouri
Most of Illinois didn’t report but some that did show up to 1 in 2 children poisoned
Child lead poisoning rates in Wisconsin are as high as 1 in 3
Areas around South Bend show lead poisoning in 1 out of every 4 children
High child lead poisoning rates discovered across Milwaukee
Baltimore shows high lead poisoning rates in children
A Reuters investigation this week uncovered nearly 3,000 different communities across the U.S. with lead levels higher than those found in Flint, Michigan, which has been the center of an ongoing water contamination crisis since 2014.
The investigation found that many of the hot-spots are receiving little attention or funding. Local healthcare advocates said they hope the reporting will spur action from influential community leaders.
All of the communities Reuters investigated had lead levels at least two times higher than Flint’s; more than 1,000 were four times higher. In most cases, the local data covered a 5- to 10-year period through 2015, the analysis states.
Areas affected by lead poisoning populate the map from Texas to Pennsylvania, reported Reuters‘ M.B. Pell and Joshua Schneyer. The available data charts 21 states that are home to about 61 percent of the U.S. population.
Despite the massive drop in lead poisoning rates since the 1970s—when heavy metals were phased out of paint and gasoline—many communities throughout the country are still at risk.
“The national mean doesn’t mean anything for a kid who lives in a place where the risks are much higher,” said Dr. Helen Egger, chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center’s Child Study Center.
Like Flint, many of the communities are mired in “legacy lead,” Reuters reported—old industrial waste, crumbling paint, or corrosive pipes. But few have received help or attention.
Contamination in children can cause cognitive difficulties, which in turn can lead to low school performance, few job opportunities, and trouble with the law. That cycle was examined last year when 25-year-old Baltimore resident Freddie Gray died after his spine was severed in police custody. Amid protests against brutality and racism, many noted that Gray experienced lead poisoning as a child while living in an area with persistently high exposure levels.
But the problem is nationwide and affects a vast spectrum of communities, Reuters writes. Milwaukee, Wisconsin still has “135,000 prewar dwellings with lead paint, and 70,000 with lead water service lines,” and $50 million has already been spent to protect the city’s children. Many families do not have the funds to make the repairs themselves, and laws requiring owners to remove lead from their properties are not consistent state by state.“Reporters visited several of the trouble spots: a neighborhood with many rundown homes in South Bend, Indiana; a rural mining town in Missouri’s Lead Belt; the economically depressed North Side of Milwaukee,” Pell and Schneyer write. “In each location, it was easy to find people whose lives have been impacted by lead exposure. While poverty remains a potent predictor of lead poisoning, the victims span the American spectrum—poor and rich, rural and urban, black and white.”
In St. Joseph, Missouri, one of the most contaminated neighborhoods included in the study, even a local pediatrician’s children had lead poisoning.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate approved a $170 million aid package to repair Flint’s corrosive pipes and fund recovery efforts. But that is 10 times the budget the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) allotted for lead poisoning assistance this year, Reuters notes.
“I hope this data spurs questions from the public to community leaders who can make changes,” epidemiologist Robert Walker, co-chair of the CDC’s Lead Content Work Group, told Reuters. “I would think that it would turn some heads.”