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WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

Health Department Reports Gaps in Milwaukee's Childhood Lead Program

LaToya Dennis
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

Monday evening Mayor Tom Barrett held a last minute press conference on a troubling new report from the Milwaukee Health Department. It cites inferior training and lack of coordination.

What Mayor Barrett focused on was gaps in follow up:

"The report does include at least two cases of children with blood levels of higher than 40 who were allowed by the department to be released that was not yet assured to be lead least two children that we know of that were allowed to return to a home that we had not tested to make sure it was lead free. I've been advised by the department that those two situations were quickly identified and that remedial steps were taken."

The city and its health department have long touted its Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program for its positive impacts for at risk families.

Through the program, children who test at concerning levels for lead are tracked and at the highest levels, the health department makes home visits to investigate for the presence of lead paint – that’s been considered the major cause of kids exposure to lead. More than 18,000 homes have been made lead-safe from paint.

Barrett called the health department's 54-page report laying out what went wrong is the initial step in investigating what’s gone wrong with the health department. But he added, "I think that there's shared responsibility, obviously as Mayor the buck stops at my desk and I understand that."

Barrett said personnel issues are a factor, but right now he can’t discuss details.

The Health Department will continue to offer free lead clinics this week. Tuesday afternoon, its being held at Southside Health Center, located 1639 S. 23rd Street, from 1 to 4 pm. People can call 414-286-8800 for more information.

The Health Department’s report, all 54 pages of it, will be taken up by a special meeting of the city’s Steering & Rules Committee Wednesday at 1 :30 pm.

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Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.
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