Photography: Child Lead Poisoning
According to a Rhode Island Department of Health official, lead poisoning represents the greatest health risk to the children of our state. Children, who are most commonly poisoned by ingesting lead-paint dust or chips, can suffer compromised brain development and decrease cognitive ability. The result can be learning disabilities, antisocial behaviors, reduced hearing and speech and language problems. In severe cases lead can damage kidneys, trigger high blood pressure and even induce comas, convulsions and in rare cases death. The threat is present throughout the Northeast in older housing stock and neglected properties. The financial and emotional costs penetrate every sector of society. The crisis burdens families, landlords, taxpayers and the educational, legal and medical systems. Nearly a third of Providence's children have elevated blood lead levels, a rate eight times the national average. As a result, Rhode Island has become the first state to sue the makers of lead paint, seeking millions to pay for removing the paint from homes and caring for poisoned children. This story looks at the children, families and lives of those affected by the lead crisis.