A Reuters investigation explores nearly 3,000 other cities with lead poisoning rates
worse than Flint- receiving even less attention or federal funding.
While cities such as Flint, Chicago, and Milwaukee were extensively covered these past years for lead poisoning crises, there are many more locales testing with even higher lead poisoning rates, yet receiving even less attention or funding. According to a Reuters investigation, nearly 3,000 American cities recently recorded lead poisoning rates at least double that of Flint's.
The cities, including Baltimore, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Tulsa and St. Joseph, all share a commonality of historic homes and industrial economies, where lead paint in homes and lead dust from industry cause a health hazard to families in the area.
“I believe that beyond the history of industry, our state has some of the oldest homes in the country,” Dr. Loren Robinson, Pennsylvania’s deputy secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, said in a recent press release.
In this study, Reuters collected data at the neighborhood level using zip code areas. Unlike the U.S. state disclosures, this data analysis was able to identify cities with outstanding lead poisoning rates. For example, the study found that while 5% of children in Flint, Michigan tested with high blood lead levels, a specific Flint zip code showed 11% testing high.
By identifying not only other suffering cities, but also the exact neighborhoods where there is a disproportionate occurrence of lead poisoning, this study can help officials focus their efforts.
“I hope this data spurs questions from the public to community leaders who can make changes,” Robert Walker, epidemiologist and co-chair of the CDC’s Lead Content Work Group, said in a recent press release.
Still, for these cities there is not much Federal assistance available; Congress recently allotted $170 million in aid to Flint - ten times higher than the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's yearly budget for lead poisoning assistance.
At the state level, many of the affected communities are in poor areas that receive little public funding. In South Bend, Indiana, 31% of children tested with blood level rates six times higher than Flint; it has only two nurses and one environmental inspector tackling lead poisoning prevention for the 265,000 residents.
While rates of lead poisoning have decreased over the years, it will take even more action to help the most at-risk. While Flint, Chicago and Milwaukee are all tragedies in their own right, they are not anomalies; this study shows lead poisoning is more pervasive than originally thought.