Loyola forum addresses lead poisoning in Chicago
While tremendous strides have been made in recent years to address the problem of childhood lead poisoning, there is far more that needs to be done. Lead, like many environmental pollutants, impacts millions of children each year. Lead poisoning is not just a health issue, it is a social justice issue. Research indicates that children can be harmed by much lower levels of lead in their system than originally thought, and children who live in our most vulnerable communities are at a greater risk.
Representatives from the City of Chicago and Cook County public health departments, as well as national experts in lead poisoning, recently gathered at the Loyola University Chicago forum “The State of the City and County: An Issue Briefing on Lead Poisoning in Chicago and Cook,” held at the Philip H. Corboy Law Center, to discuss working together to combat issues surrounding lead poisoning and its devastating impact on families in local communities. The day’s topics included the primary sources of lead poisoning and effects on children, current responses in place to address the problem in Chicago and Cook County, and additional strategies that need to be implemented to eliminate lead poisoning in the most vulnerable communities.
A final panel of experts recommended several calls to action to forum participants to ensure the effective elimination of lead poisoning in our communities. Top priority actions included increasing federal and local funding to remove lead hazards in paint or pipes, and holding industries accountable for the burden of eliminating the hazards. Panelists also called for government assistance to initiate creative methods and incentives to address lead hazards in high-risk communities, and early intervention services for children harmed by lead in order to overcome developmental delays that can occur as a result of lead exposure.
“We’ve known for decades that lead harms children and communities,” said Anita Weinberg, director of Loyola’s ChildLaw Policy Institute, and a long-time advocate for lead-poisoning prevention. “It’s our collective responsibility to take action to ensure that children are not exposed to lead, and if they are, that their families have the supports and resources needed to mitigate the harm caused by sources of lead.”
The lead forum at Loyola was organized by Weinberg, and Katherine Kafka Walts, director of the University’s Center for the Human Rights of Children (CHRC). Recognizing that children require special protections, the CHRC addresses critical and complex issues affecting children and youth, both locally and globally. “Access to clean water and safe housing is a human rights issue,” said Kaufka Walks. “Environmental protection is key to ensuring the future health and well-being of children around the world. We’re pleased that as a start, this forum has initiated a positive dialogue to address the devastating effects of childhood lead poisoning in our own backyard.”