Though the detrimental effects of lead exposure have been known for some time, more information has come to light just in the last few years.
Children and pregnant women (because of how lead can affect the fetus) are most at risk of long-term damage from lead exposure; there is no safe level of lead. More than 2,000 children in Milwaukee test above the federally recognized level for lead poisoning every year.
According to a 2014 report by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, childhood lead exposure can result in brain damage, leading to aggressive behavior, stunted intellectual development and mental health problems. However, exposure as an adult can also have negative effects, increasing the likelihood of kidney disease, high blood pressure, depression, stroke and memory loss, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Paint, water, soil and even baby food can be significant sources of lead exposure. While most experts consider lead paint the primary source of exposure, about 30 percent of cases come from elsewhere. A March 2016 report from Harvard University concluded that American cities’ use of lead service pipes “considerably increased” homicide rates across the country.
More than 70,000 homes in Milwaukee have a lead service line. You can see if your home has a lead service pipe by checking for your address in the corresponding list at the bottom of this page; you can find a master list here.
The Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service has covered this issue for more than a year, and we’re looking for your help to understand how a personal experience with lead poisoning can affect a person, or family. We will also explore how the healthcare system can be improved to protect more people from harm.
Do you suspect your child may have lead poisoning? Please tell us your story.
Are you a health care professional or policymaker with information to share? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.