Apologies from government officials asleep at the wheel simply won’t cut it.
Tell our government to restore funding for the CDC Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention program.
Flint, Michigan is in a state of emergency due to a full-scale lead poisoned water crisis.1
Thousands of families in this mostly Black community have been exposed to toxic water, doubling the number of children with dangerous levels of lead in their blood in just one year.2 This is nothing short of a disgrace, a preventable crisis years in the making and the direct result of reckless budget cuts and spending.
Make no mistake, we’re talking about more than haphazard financial management here. For months residents complained about cloudy, foul-smelling water and they were told by local officials that this toxic water could be safely consumed by their families. These officials had every reason to know something was wrong and they did nothing. These are our children, and they deserve better than the treatment they are getting from our government.
And it’s not just in Flint, Michigan where this is happening. Across the US, predominantly Black and low-income communities are at dire risk of severe health problems caused by lead poisoning.3 Lead-tainted homes in Baltimore, Detroit, and other cities, a legacy of toxic neglect and lead poisoning of well over 10,000 children under the age of five in Cleveland.4 Yet despite all of this, federal funding for the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program has been reduced by more than half.5 It’s unacceptable, the federal government needs to take action to ensure that Black and low-income communities are protected from environmental hazards that negatively affect their health and livelihoods.
Tell the US government to restore funding for the CDC Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention program in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget.
Symptoms of lead poisoning include loss of developmental skills, skin lesions, kidney dysfunction and depression. There is no safe level of lead exposure, and that exposure can cause irreversible damage in children.6 When we talk about protecting Black lives, this does not speak only to preventing the unjust death of Black people at the hands of the police.It speaks also to ensuring that Black people can lead full and healthy lives, with all the rights and protections afforded to them.
Freddie Grey, a victim of police brutality, suffered from chronic health problems caused by lead poisoning via childhood exposure in public housing.7 The state failed Freddie Grey on two counts: safeguarding his health as a child and protecting his rights as an adult. We must rely on the courts to seek justice for Freddie Grey, but we can act now to ensure that no one else suffers from the same health problems that he did.
Black communities have long been left vulnerable to pollution due to racism and discrimination which constrains their social mobility and economic opportunity. Black people comprise 45% of low-income public housing inhabitants, signifying a deep need for social support programs.8 Yet studies indicate 35% of all low-income housing had significant lead-based paint hazards. Of those with hazards, 1.2 million units housed low-income families (less than $30,000 per year) with children under 6 years of age.9 With each passing day more and more Black families are impacted by lead poisoning, which diminishes their quality of life and impairs their potential.
Will you join us in calling on our government to affirm the value of our lives and well-being at every age and in all aspects?
Thanks and peace,
Brandi, Rashad, Arisha, Bernard, Brittaney, Evan, and the rest of the ColorOfChange team
1. “Flint, Michigan, tried to save money on water. Now its children have lead poisoning.” Vox, 01-06-2016 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/5732?t=7&akid=5273.1942551.tw6Sl9
2. “In Flint, Mich., there’s so much lead in children’s blood that a state of emergency is declared” The Washington Post, 12-15-2015
3. "Lead paint: Despite progress, hundreds of Maryland children still poisoned" The Baltimore Sun, 12-05-2015
4. "Toxic Neglect: Curing Cleveland's legacy of lead poisoning" Cleveland.com, 10-20-2015 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/5736?t=13&akid=5273.1942551.tw6Sl9
5. "Federal Funding for Healthy Homes" National Center for Healthy Homes, 2015
6. "EPA lead standards leave children exposed to harm". The Hill, 12-03-2015
7. "Freddie Gray's life a study on the effects of lead paint on poor blacks." The Washington Post, 04-29-2015 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/5739?t=19&akid=5273.1942551.tw6Sl9
8. "Housing Spotlight: Who Lives in Federally Assisted Housing?" National Low Income Housing Coalition, November 2012 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/5740?t=21&akid=5273.1942551.tw6Sl9
9. "The Prevalence of Lead-Based Paint Hazards in U.S. Housing" Environmental Health Perspectives, October 2002. http://act.colorofchange.org/go/5741?t=23&akid=5273.1942551.tw6Sl9
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