Why is Plain Dealer still ignoring impact of Lead Poisoning in education and economy?

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sun, 09/10/2006 - 15:03.

The Plain Dealer is taking a high road right now in dealing with politicians and the local economy - the same high road of Ronn Richard and the Cleveland Foundation, and most other community leaders in town... we need good education to have an effective economy. The PD quotes Cleveland Foundation President Ronn Richard as saying, at the City Club Friday, "Any plan to reinvigorate Northeast Ohio has to include reinventing, not just improving, public education... In fact, overhauling our educational system must become a national priority". In the Sunday, 09/10/06 Plain Dealer, the PD proudly proclaims: "Newspapers aim to set the agenda for election"... "Some of Ohio's largest newspapers are banding together to urge candidates in the governor's race to focus on three critical issues: kids, college and jobs." Yet neither Ronn Richard or the PD acknowledge the silent crisis of lead poisoning (and, BTW, mercury in our lakes, rivers and Perch-fries) that guarantees each year 10,000s of children in Ohio will not be able to be educated, or become effective members of the economy or society, and will instead be lifelong burdens. As the Washingtonian acknowledges (large PDF) in their more intelligent August 2006 coverage of social issues in Washington, DC, "In DC, hundreds of children are being damaged every year—and the results will be more school dropouts and more crime." For NEO and Ohio leaders to talk about improving education without attacking the lead and toxin crisis is either ignorant of deceitful. I tend to lean toward deceitful, as in the same PD that proposes to care about education, the business section features a puff-piece on the CEO of Ohio coatings manufacturer RPM, which is in the middle of major litigation over asbestos, and the PD uses this opportunity to position that litigation as fraudulent. The interview with RPM CEO Frank Sullivan features he joking about his relations with Sherwin Williams CEO Connor, who is fighting for his life to battle litigation all over America (except in Ohio) against his company over lead poisoning millions of Americans... to these people, harming millions of people is just good business, and the PD celebrates that.

But read about the crisis impacting Ohio IT leader Don Larson, who was unfortunate enough to move here from California to get an MBA at Case and stay, and as a result has several lead poisoned children, covered in "Poison Kids" in Scene Magazine, a few weeks ago... if he had just left here before settling in Lakewood, his life would be so much different. Then, read a few highlights from the Washingtonian below and consider, doesn't this describe the problem children disrupting our public schools, who become teens punching bicyclists in Ohio City, and adults killing our peace officers? Do you want NEO and Ohio to get to action solving the core problems of our core communities, or do you want to turn your back on our children and economy, with a media that aids and abets? If you want to help address this problem, write to the PD and encourage them to promote elimination of lead poisoning in Ohio, and contact the Cleveland Department of Public Health and offer your support... email me at realneo [at] inbox [dot] com if you want additional contact information.

Jonathan Harrison is eight years old and has no friends. He struggles to read and do basic arithmetic.

“No one likes me,” he tells his mother. “I just want to die.”

A little boy with somber brown eyes, Jonathan began life with promise. He weighed ten pounds at birth, walked at one, began speaking before two, and always seemed to be smiling, recalls his mother, Connie Royster. “Jonathan was a beautiful baby, happy all the time. He was a child anyone would want.”

Born in October 1997, Jonathan lived the first ten months of his life in Fort Washington, Maryland. Then the family moved to the District, renting a turn-of-the-century house on 13th Street, Southeast.

Jonathan did the things little boys do. He played with trucks, watched Sesame Street, went shopping with his mother. But around age two, his personality changed. He became temperamental and hard to control—almost a different child.

“Jonathan cut all the cables in the house,” his mother says. “To the TV, VCR, to everything. Cut them to pieces.” The mother of three older children, Royster knew Jonathan’s behavior was not normal, even for the terrible twos.

She took Jonathan to a Kaiser health clinic and was surprised when tests revealed a blood-lead level of 20 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dl)—twice the “action level” for lead poisoning established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A repeat test put the level at 22 mcg/dl.

Like most lead-poisoned children, Jonathan exhibited no physical symptoms. But his mother, a DC native and registered nurse, knew of lead’s toxicity to the brain and believed his high level explained his behavior change.

Notified of Jonathan’s lead poisoning, the DC Department of Health sent inspectors to the home, where tests detected lead in the interior paint and paint dust. Royster remembered occasionally removing paint chips from Jonathan’s mouth when he was a toddler and how he liked to play and crawl in the corner room where all the windows let sunlight in. Leaded dust often results from the opening and closing of windows.

The health department ordered Jonathan and his family not to live in the house until a lead-abatement contractor, to be hired by the landlord, rehabbed the house. The abatement was supposed to take three months but lasted six.

Kaiser doctors referred Jonathan to a pediatric neurologist and a psychiatrist at Children’s National Medical Center, where Jonathan was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Doctors prescribed two drugs, one for ADHD and one to prevent Jonathan from sleepwalking. The medication helped calm Jonathan for periods of time, but when it wore off he sometimes threw tantrums and became impulsive and aggressive.

At age four, while riding the Metro with older brother Gregory, Jonathan bolted out at a station just as the doors opened. Gregory, now 20 and a junior at the University of the District of Columbia, ran after him, yelling, “Move, move,” as he pushed aside incoming passengers. He found Jonathan on the Metro platform, laughing.

One day Jonathan set his mother’s bed on fire.

“I knew Jonathan did not act in any way like my other children or like any child I ever knew,” says Royster. “He was getting more and more uncontrollable, and there didn’t seem to be anything anyone could do to stop it."

Not an alarmist - a realist on lead

I've posted lots about lead poisoning on REALNEO, partly because it is so misunderstood and under-covered in the NEO mainstream media... still, I'm sure many REALNEO readers say, more about lead pisoning... enough already, right? Wrong - Associated Press just released an article on recent findings that confirms low-level lead exposure previously linked to behavior problems is in fact associated with ADHD. With lery low levels of exposure, risk for ADHD goes up 4X. So, as I've been saying over and over, the core issue of Cleveland's failing economy and education outcomes is toxins in our environment. Read more here.

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BTW - ADHD from as low as 2 micrograms of lead

Another finding of the study I reference above is that ADHD probability increases at much lower levels of lead expoure than the US Government has ruled as safe (2 vs. 10 micrograms per deciliter)... that level is below what most physicians even test for, so our prevention strategies must be revised even further than planned, which was to drop the damage metric to 5 micrograms... bottom lne, there is no safe level of lead exposure at all - zero!

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Add Ohio to the Sherwin Williams list

Now Sherwin Williams must fight lead litigation in Ohio as well as 26 other states - and Sherwin Williams' way of showing love in our hometown is to sue the people of Ohio. We love you too, big brother!

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