Do We Have a “Flint Situation” Here in Indiana?
A shocking story out of East Chicago, Indiana: The West Calumet Housing Complex, a largely low-income residential property, was built on a former lead smelting company’s site. Over 1,000 residents are now forced to leave because of the perilously high levels of lead in the soil.
For decades children have been playing in the toxic dirt. Then in July, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notified residents about the problem. The EPA had discovered that the lead levels in soil samples were generally three times higher than the federal safety standards. In some areas of the complex, the levels were even greater.
The complex was built in 1972. In 2009, the EPA designated 74 acres of the Calumet neighborhood a Superfund cleanup site because of the noxious legacy left behind by U.S.S. Lead, the company that formerly operated there and which went bankrupt in 1992. But no one had notified residents of the danger until after the recent testing. Those who live in the housing complex must relocate, and the complex will be demolished.
Children Are Especially Susceptible to Lead
Do we have a situation comparable to the levels of lead in Flint, Michigan’s water? Some experts say yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have gone on the record to state that lead’s health risks are not contingent on how the exposure happens, whether by water or dirt or lead paint. What matters is how often the person is exposed, and the vulnerability of the individual.
Children, because they are still growing, are most vulnerable to lead poisoning. Even small amounts over the maximum level of exposure can cause developmental delays, sometimes permanent ones, including lowered IQs, learning difficulties, and behavioral problems. Lead is a neurotoxin, which means it destroys nerve tissue.
Problems with lead exposure are not limited to Flint and East Chicago. Quest Diagnostics studied over 5 million blood samples from infants and children under the age of 6. These testing samples were taken from every state, including the District of Columbia, between 2009 and 2015. In their study, released in June, 2016, Quest discovered:
- In some areas of the U.S., notably some portions of New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, more than one in seven children had high levels of lead in their blood. That’s about 14 percent of all kids tested.
- As a state, Minnesota had the most children with elevated lead levels in their blood—10.3 percent of those tested.
- Following Minnesota were the near-to-Indiana states of Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Ohio. In all three states, at least 7 percent of tested children demonstrated elevated levels of lead.
Risk Factors for Lead Poisoning
Why are some areas showing a greater rate of high lead levels in children? It turns out that the risk of lead poisoning depends on two factors:
- In areas with a lot of pre-1950s construction that is being used as residences, the chance of exposure to lead through lead pipes and lead paints is increased.
- Children in Zip codes containing a greater proportion of those living in poverty are more likely to have elevated lead levels in their blood. In short: Being poor increases the risk of lead poisoning.
Are You Concerned?
If you are concerned about lead exposure, be sure you know the signs of lead poisoning:
- Appetite loss and weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Persistent headaches
- Numbness, pain, or tingling in extremities.
If you suspect lead poisoning, seek medical help and have your water and home tested.
When others breach their duty, we keep ours.
Exposure to lead can cause lifelong problems in children, even kill them. If you believe that you or a loved one has been harmed by lead exposure in Indiana and you would like to explore your options, put Mike Stephenson and his team at McNeely Stephenson to work for you. We can study your case and tell you what your rights are. If you or your child has suffered an injury due to lead exposure, you deserve compensation. Talk with us about obtaining a free consultation by calling 1-317-825-5200, or by using our online contact form.