Kansas City's lead poisoning problem
Because of lack of resolve and money, this nation has failed to meet a 2010 goal to eliminate childhood lead poisoning by attacking a problem that often exists in poor and minority neighborhoods.
Paint found in many older homes in the Kansas City area and throughout the country contains lead; it was finally banned as a paint ingredient in 1978.
Children and families remain at risk because of the debilitating and costly damage of lead poisoning, The Kansas City Star reported Sunday.
The effects include hearing loss, lower IQ, learning disabilities, an increased likelihood of dropping out of school, impulsiveness, being violent, spending time in jail and contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
Just think: Reducing lead poisoning in our youth would reduce all of those problems, giving untold numbers of children a chance at a brighter future.
How can that be done? Taxpayers especially have to spend more on this high priority. That will be money well spent because this strategy will reduce the need for special education programs in schools, for instance, and slow the costly construction of adult prisons.
A national war on childhood lead poisoning backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helped fund efforts like the Kansas City Health Department’s Project Lead Safe KC. It has removed lead hazards from about 2,500 homes through repainting and replacing windows. It has tested about 2,000 children a year.
But federal budget cuts are hindering efforts to tackle the city’s 40,000 remaining homes.
It’s worse in Kansas. Shockingly, the state puts almost no funding into lead poisoning prevention. Wyandotte County ranks No. 1 in the state for childhood lead poisoning and more than 20,000 homes could have problems with lead-tainted paint.
Children’s Mercy Hospital deserves praise for providing assistance to limited families in Kansas.
The lead poisoning problem can be dramatically reduced with the proper use of public funds.
Kansas should restart and properly finance its lead eradication program.
Missouri government and federal officials ought to provide more money for programs designed to keep lead dust from irreparably damaging children.
The National Center for Healthy Housing credits lead prevention programs with shielding 200,000 kids from lead poisoning between 2008 and 2010, saving the U.S. $7.5 billion. Today more than 535,000 children in America suffer lead poisoning. Unless more aggressive actions are taken, that number will grow.
The CDC has set 2020 as the new goal for ending childhood lead poisoning. The nation must devote more funding to the effort so that goal is achievable. Otherwise, it’s just lip service.