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Lead Poisoning Prevention In Spotlight After Flint, East Chicago

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Photo: Dany Melwani / Flickr

Many cases of lead poisoning are caused by lead pipes in older homes.

The lead contamination crisis in East Chicago, Indiana has put a spotlight on the issue in the Hoosier state. This week, officials in Bloomington announced dangerous levels of lead in the soil on an abandoned water tank site.

Hoosiers are wondering if their communities are vulnerable to lead contamination.

This week on Noon Edition, our panelists discussed the state of lead contamination and poisoning throughout Indiana, and what is being done about it.

Indra Frank, Environmental Health Director for the Hoosier Environmental Council, talked about the hazards of lead poisoning, specifically with infants.

“What we see in children who were affected during pregnancy or as young children, is that they will have a lower IQ and they’ll be an increased risk for behavioral problems,” she said.

Jim Barnes, professor at IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, says that lead ingestion is a bigger issue than contact exposure. Old paint could fleck off and become airborne, or an old house’s piping could contaminate the water. But high lead concentrations in soil are solved by simply moving and burying the dirt.

“I’m not sure that lead moves rapidly through the soil,” he said. “Unless you have a solvent or something, there’s not a high likelihood it’s going to move through the soil.”

Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Energy and Environment Reporter Nick Janzen explained why lead is so prevalent in America. As a material, lead is long lasting and durable.

“The U.S. really does have a lead problem,” he said. “It’s terrible for humans, but it’s incredibly useful industrially.”

He noted that pipes buried one hundred years ago are still functioning as they were intended. So because of lead’s tenacity, the health problems it creates are just as long-lasting.

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