With all the insanity in the news this last year it is easy to forget about the nationwide lead crisis going on in America. Which is understandable, lead is a slow killer, and when compared to threats of more wars in Yemen and Iran, or literal nuclear holocaust in the Korean Peninsula. This is despite the fact that the lead crisis is maybe one of the most profound and important challenges of our generation. Millions of Americans are silently sick, and developing lifelong life changing conditions.
The blood of residents, mostly children, in over 3,000 cities across America have double Flint’s lead rate, over 1,100 cities have four times Flint’s levels, and in the case of Buffalo New York eight times the levels of lead found in Flint. This isn’t to downplay the problems that are still going on in Flint Michigan, but the fact of the matter is that Buffalo New York might just be the most toxic city in America.
The East and West side neighborhoods of Buffalo have two out of every five children testing positive for dangerously elevated levels of lead. For anyone who doesn’t know the highest acceptable level of lead in the bloodstream is 5ppm, but many Buffalo residents have peaked at over 40ppm. So high that they have been hospitalized and given Chelation treatments. Which is a last minute, make sure you aren’t going to just straight up die, treatment that forcibly removes heavy metals from the bloodstream. More often than not the people who end up in neighborhoods that have elevated lead levels can’t afford to pay their own rent and the security deposits on new apartments. The Buffalo health department checks homes regularly, but often there are no fines put against landlords who are in violation of having unsafe lead levels. Since 2009, 1% of houses in buffalo have been properly cleaned of their lead threat.
However that only takes into account lead found in paint, that doesn’t look at the lead in pipes and the lead levels in water. Reports have shown that Buffalo has done the same kind of lead testing cheats that lead to criminal charges in Flint. Meaning that essentially the city has focused it’s testing on predominantly white suburban neighborhoods in North and South Buffalo. In its last round of testing it took only five out of three hundred samples from the East side neighborhood while forty one came from white neighborhoods where no one had been diagnosed with lead poisoning in recent years.
This all comes back to the question of why a city, or anyone would cover up or try to ignore such a huge looming problem. Well if you listen to a number of Buffalo residents it is because of Gentrification. Yes what better way to get people to move, than to keep them constantly sick. Why would they want to fix the pipes or the water when they are trying to get people to move out? Despite denying the existence of the problem. When the waterfront district of Buffalo experienced a revival, and all the previous residents were pushed out to make room for new high rise lofts. What do you know they replaced all the pipes in that area! Wonder why they would do that if there wasn’t a problem.
There is a huge problem, even if every lead pipe in the USA was fixed tomorrow we would still have to deal with aftermath for decades. Long time exposure to lead causes depression, forgetfulness, irritability, and nausea according to the CDC, but that’s just for adults. The effects are significantly stronger when it is a child who is being exposed, In particular lead can affect children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as reduced attention span and increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment. Lead exposure also causes anemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs. The neurological and behavioral effects of lead are believed to be irreversible.
So what happens to a generation of people when they grow old, who have learning disabilities, a proclivity to violence, they end up in jail, unemployed or living on the street.