The Flint Water Crisis & Baltimore’s History of Lead Poisoning

March 14, 2016

You may have heard in recent months about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. High levels of lead have been present in Flint’s water supply for a little over a year now. Unfortunately, many children in Flint have contracted lead poisoning. When reading about the statistics of this disaster, it may remind some of the lead paint poisoning epidemic in Baltimore City.

Lead paint poisoning was discovered to be a major problem in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The risk and complications of lead paint poisoning were first studied by a pediatrician, Herbert Needleman. Needleman documented the dangers of even low levels of lead exposure. Complications include vomiting, diarrhea, coma, insomnia, fatigue, and death. Soon, cases of lead poisoning began to be treated in cities across the nation, including Baltimore.

Lead is “a poisonous metal that was used in building construction and in the making of other households paints prior to 1978,” according to the Baltimore City Health Department. At least 4,900 children in Baltimore have been exposed to lead poisoning in the past decade. Though the numbers have gone down since the early 2000’s, lead poisoning is still a major risk to Baltimore’s youth. Many of the older houses within Baltimore have yet to be tested or checked for lead paint.

Luckily, there are ways to check for lead paint in your home. According to the Baltimore City Health Department, lead or lead paint may be found in window sills, window frames, door frames, door jambs, railings, steps, and stops. Lead can be found on jewelry, toys, batteries, crystal, pottery, and in cosmetics. People most at risk for contracting lead poisoning are children ages one to six and pregnant women.

To read more about lead paint poisoning visit the Baltimore City Health Department or CDC webpages. If you would like to donate to help Flint, click here.



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