Yes We Can: Eliminate Childhood Lead Poisoning

November 23, 2016
Billboard: Don't Put Lead In Your Head

Forty years ago, we knew lead was toxic, and we knew the largest sources of exposure. So we took action, and we made progress. But, 40 years ago, we didn’t finish the job. We eliminated lead from the major exposure sources: paint and gasoline. Those two steps succeeded in reducing American children’s blood lead levels by nearly 95% and raised their IQ by 3-5 points. The bans on lead also appear to have played a role in reducing rates of violent crime. But, 95% isn’t good enough. Those five missing percentage points are people. The most vulnerable are our children, many of them in low-income families.

Science has proven there is NO safe level of lead. In addition to loss of intelligence, lead exposures, even at very small doses, can cause learning disabilities, attention deficits, and impulsive behavior. The harm lead causes to brain development is irreversible. Exposures in the womb are especially dangerous, so pregnant women must take extra precautions. Flint and many other cities painfully remind us that the epidemic of lead poisoning in U.S. is far from over. The CDC estimates that 535,000 children under the age of 5 still have elevated blood levels. Did you know that we already have the solutions we need to end lead poisoning for all American children? We know the scope of the problem and we know how to fix it.

What we now need is national and political will to harness the resources and execute the playbook that will finish what we started 40 years ago. To make this a reality, Healthy Babies Bright Futures is helping to organize the National Lead Summit: A National Call to End Childhood Lead Poisoning in 5 Years. This unprecedented summit is a convening of leading scientists, environmental health organizations, researchers, doctors, and policymakers in Washington, D.C. on December 4 and 5 in partnership with Green & Healthy Homes, Healthy Babies Bright Futures, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and National Center for Healthy Housing.

If you want to make the elimination of lead poisoning a reality for ALL American children, please join us by adding your name to our email list. We will keep you informed about what you can do to help in this incredible effort and keep you updated on important developments from the summit.

Ruth Hennig
Healthy Babies Bright Futures, Chair
The John Merck Fund, Executive Director

Photo credit: Earl Dotter