According to a national study released by the American Medical Association last month, 65% of children in Kansas have high levels of lead in their blood – 15 points above the national average.
There is no safe lead level, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Exposure to lead, especially early in life, can lead to brain and nervous system damage, slower growth and development, as well as learning, behavior, hearing and hearing problems. ‘speech.
Although we have made significant progress over the past 40 years in reducing lead exposure through government policies to eliminate it from gasoline, paint, plumbing and consumer products , There is still a lot to do. Many older homes in low income areas, especially urban areas populated by minorities, still have an abundance of lead in paint and plumbing.
The health issues associated with lead exposure bring to mind the thoughts of Flint, Michigan, where in the name of financial savings, local and state governments failed to properly treat the water supply and poisoned thousands of children. The children of the city will never fully recover.
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But we can work to prevent this from happening elsewhere.
Exposure to lead through water is not only a concern in states like Michigan. It’s a problem here in Kansas.
Kansas has one of the largest numbers of lead service lines in the country. According to the National Resources Defense Council, Kansas has the third highest number of lead pipes per capita. These pipes carry water into our homes and buildings which our children then drink.
Proper treatment of the water can prevent corrosion of the pipes. But once the service lines start to corrode, they carry lead into our drinking water. Water that has high acidity or low mineral content is particularly corrosive to fixtures and pipes. This is exactly what happened to Flint.
There has long been a lack of political will to replace the main service lines. But after the Flint Crisis, it recently became a national priority under the Biden administration. The president’s infrastructure plan proposed spending $ 45 billion to replace lead pipes, including our state’s approximately 158,000 lead pipes.
Research by Dan Slusky, health economics expert and associate professor at the University of Kansas, studies the economic impact of lead exposure. His analysis concludes that the benefits of the infrastructure plan would justify the costs.
Cities across the country have recently faced public health crises related to lead. Are Kansas Cities Next?
If the past two years have shown us anything, it’s that health is a community issue. He also showed us that scientific truths are often dismissed for political reasons.
The government can protect rights, promote equality and prevent historical injustices, but it often forces citizens to demand that the government use this power preventively. A lead attack would be too late for the children of Kansas. No amount of exposure is safe.
But we can – and must – pressure the Kansas congressional delegation to prioritize replacing the lead pipes as part of the infrastructure plan. This is our chance to protect the health and well-being of the children of Kansas.
Alexandra Middlewood, PhD, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Wichita State University.