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Lead Poisoning Threatens Terre Haute’s Poorest Residents

Terre Haute's residents who live near former industrial areas, railroads or those who live in old houses are at high risk for possible lead poisoning.

Abandoned home in Terre Haute, Indiana. The Lieutenant Governor says the program will help stabilize neighborhoods and reduce foreclosures.

Photo: The Terre Haute Project / Flickr

Terre Haute's older homes are more likely to house lower-income families and contain dangerous levels of lead.

Terre Haute’s poorest residents are at the highest risk for lead poisoning, according to an Indiana State University study.

For her master’s degree thesis, ISU student Heather Foxx used a handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzer to test the soil at parks, playgrounds and residences around Terre Haute.

“What we’ve found was a lot of contamination from older houses that used the lead based paint. As the lead based paint is deteriorating, it starts to deteriorate into the soil and then that leads to higher lead concentration in the soil which increases the risk of exposure to children and adults,” Foxx says.

Lead is most commonly found in houses built before 1978—when lead-based paint was banned. The study finds lower-income residents tend to move into those houses because they are less expensive.

Vigo County Health Department spokesperson Christina Keller says the county doesn’t have the money to strip out the lead-based paint from those homes, but her department does provide free blood screening process for the children under the age of six.

Keller says lead poisoning can lead to serious health problems.

“It causes in children specifically, brain damage and nervous system disorders, behavioral problems. Slow growth is seen a lot as well as hearing problems and headaches,” Keller says.

Adults can also be affected. Adult symptoms include digestive and nerve problems, memory loss, muscle and joint pains, high blood pressure and reproductive issues.

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