Monday, August 23, 2010

The Lead Paint Travesty

“...Perhaps Baltimore’s Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI) best exemplified the dubious protection of parental consent, which it was careful to elicit when it began its “Repair and Maintenance Study” in the mid-1990s. Researchers approached black families in 108 units of decrepit housing encrusted with crumbling, peeling lead paint. Lead paint is a notorious cause of acute illness and chronic mental retardation in young children, who inhale the lead borne on the air and nibble the peeling paint chips, drawn by the appealing sweet taste of the lead. That same sweet taste led Romans to infuse their wine with lead, courting mental devastation, which some historians believe hastened their civilization’s decline. Today, it is poor children in crumbling inner-city housing who suffer most from lead. Fortunately, we know how to protect children by banning the use of lead paint and by offering lead-abatement programs. But the agenda of the KKI scientists did not include removing children from lead exposure, because they planned to use these children to evaluate new, cheaper lead-abatement techniques- of unknown efficacy- in old homes with peeling paint.

Because scientists wished to explore cheaper ways of eliminating the lead threat in the future, they purposely arranged with landlords to have children inhabit lead-tainted housing so that they could monitor changes in the children’s lead levels as well as the brain and developmental damage that resulted from different kinds of lead-abatement programs. Scientists offered parents of children in these lead-laden homes incentives such as fifteen-dollar payments to cooperate with the study, without divulging that it placed their children at risk of lead exposure. The literature given the parents implied that the study was protecting their children from lead damage and promised to inform parents of any hazards.

KKI researchers simultaneously encouraged landlords of approximately 125 tainted housing units to rent to families with young children by paying for the lead abatement if the landlords rented to such families. They met with chilling success. When the KKI drew blood from one-year-old Ericka Grimes on April 9, 1993, for example, her reading was nine micrograms per deciliter, which is a ‘normal’ reading, according to CDC guidelines. The KKI identified lead-imbued hot spots in the home but did not tell Ericka’s parents. When Ericka was retested on September 15, 1994, her blood-lead reading was 32, which CDC charts label a ‘highly elevated’ reading.” --From, "Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to The Present" By: Harriet A. Washington

[SIDEBAR: This book is a MUST read! Please go out and get it. It has superb information in it! It should be required reading in all educational institutions. *SIDEBAR UPDATE*: The only objection I have to this book is the epilogue. I disagree with a lot of conclusions drawn in that section of the book. I still appreciate how thoroughly researched and explained the rest of the book is though.]

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