Lead poisoning still an issue in Benton Harbor



(Updated and sent to Nicole Ferszt, M.D. Comer Children’s Hospital, University of Chicago, June 18, 2017)

Lead poisoning still an issue in Benton Harbor

According to an article published in the Herald-Palladium newspaper (of St. Joseph, Michigan) Sunday, August 25, 2013, by JOHN MATUSZAK – HP Staff Writer, entitled “Still a Silent Scourge,” lead poisoning is still a public health issue in Benton Harbor.



Lead poisoning in children, even at low levels, can lead to decreases in IQ, problems with attention and other learning difficulties, often leading to unemployment, crime and prison.

While the classic cases of lead poisoning, marked by such severe physical symptoms as lethargy, seizures and vomiting, have almost disappeared, the risk of long-term damage has not. . . .

Children are at the greatest risk of harm due to lead poisoning, because it largely affects the nervous system, often permanently.

A study released in 1988 showed that first- and second-graders with high levels of lead in their blood had a median IQ six points lower than children with low lead levels.

Pregnant women can pass lead to their unborn children, and lead exposure can lead to miscarriage or premature birth.

Extremely high levels of lead can damage organs such as kidneys. In extreme cases, such as when a child eats paint chips, death can occur.

Complications of lead poisoning include behavioral problems such as aggressiveness and hyperactivity, as well as organ damage, hearing loss and slowed growth. Children with even moderate levels of lead in the blood in their first three years were nearly three times as likely to be suspended from school by age 9 or 10 as those with negligible levels. Lead poisoning effects can be seen in educational settings, in schools, and in education outcomes such as drop out rates and being held back per grade/age.

I observed these kinds of behaviors (which did not seem affective, but rather endemic) in a charter high school that I briefly taught at in Benton Harbor in 2014. Every day I dealt with kids who just could not sit still long enough to learn; kids who routinely acted out aggressively to each other and to material objects such as desks and chairs; kids whose speech and fine motor skills were slow and dysfunctional. There were frequent fights in the halls and cafeteria. If these students were not acting out from mood or lack of self-control, then what was causing this kind of troubled behavior and failed learning? Could it be lead poisoning?

Not every kid exhibited aggressive or lethargic behaviors, no, but enough to create a critical mass of permanent disruption. I had suspected that this was not the normal teenage angst or push-back that I had observed in my own three children as they entered their teenage years while attending average public schools — and after I heard about the history of high levels of lead in the Benton Harbor area water system, it seems possible that this might be the reason.


Contact the Berrien County Health Dept. and request a test. 517-335-8885

Click to access LeadPoisingBrochure.pdf

Contact OUR Congressman, Fred Upton and tell him you want more info and help on this issue! http://upton.house.gov/
Phone: (269) 982-1986  [St. Joe River, Napier Ave. Bridge]


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