Lead Poisoning is Far From Over in Milwaukee

Jan 25, 2016

Of the many problems urban places face in the 21st Century, one that many thought was behind us was lead poisoning in children. Action figures are no longer made from the metal, lead paint was banned from use on home interiors decades ago, and even leaded gasoline that produced lead-tainted exhaust and residue has been gone from the scene for more than twenty years.

But as the situation in Flint, Michigan, reminds us, lead poisoning is still a real problem.  And back in September, a report in the September issue of Milwaukee Magazine, by senior editor Matt Hrodey, says lead paint is still causing serious health problems in Milwaukee children. 

"They still haven't found an amount of lead that is essentially non-toxic," explains Hrodey. "You can go all the way down to two micrograms per deciliter of blood and they still see negative effects that are essentially irreversible."

An estimated ten percent of Milwaukee children under the age of 6 have too much lead in their bloodstream, according to the Milwaukee Health Department. Elevated levels of lead in blood are typically caused by toddlers inhaling old paint dust or putting contaminated fingers into their mouth. Lead poisoning can cause severe neurological damage, lower a person's IQ, and cause impulsive and disruptive behavior in both children and adults, but children are by far more susceptible.

"Poisoning would not be as bad if not for when children get lead in their blood stream a lot of it gets stored in their bones, and then that has a half-life of twenty to thirty years. So they're continually being kind of 'drip, drip, drip,' re-poisoned," says Hrodey.