The Cost of Being Poor: Poverty, Lead Poisoning, and Policy Implementation

The Cost of Being Poor: Poverty, Lead Poisoning, and Policy Implementation

The Cost of Being Poor: Poverty, Lead Poisoning, and Policy Implementation

The Cost of Being Poor: Poverty, Lead Poisoning, and Policy Implementation


Social problems, such as childhood lead poisoning, do not occur in a vacuum. As such, the definition of the problem requires a holistic examination of the broad social, political, and economic influences that create and perpetuate the issue of concern. Richardson does this with eloquence and heart. She also investigates the attitudes various groups have held toward the Residential Lead-based Paint Hazard Reduction Act (Title X). In doing so, she reveals much about the attitudes officials hold in general toward problems affecting poor communities and demonstrates how these attitudes directly affect policymaking and policy enforcement.

The social consequences of lead poisoning analyzed in this volume fall into the following categories:

· Housing

· Health

· Education

· Policy-making

· Legal Challenges

The Cost of Being Poor would be useful to individuals in the fields of public health, policy, education, and law. Furthermore, this work would be of special use to educators, who would benefit from familiarity with lead poisoning as a factor in their students' lives and from becoming aware that there are options that poisoned children have to improve their situation. The first step necessary in eliminating social problems is to understand the nature of the problem. This study is a step in that direction.


As a society, the United States is already bearing high costs related to
childhood lead poisoning. Some of these costs are relatively easy to
measure: medical treatment, relocation to lead-safe housing of children
having elevated blood lead levels, and special education. Other costs are
real but more difficult to quantify: higher school failure rates; reduction
in lifetime earning potential due to permanent loss of intelligence; and
increase in societal pathologies (such as crime) due to reduced ability of
lead poisoned children to succeed as adults (Lead-Based Paint Hazard
Reduction and Financing Task Force, 1995, p. 5)

Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with other professionals have long deemed lead poisoning the most prevalent environmental risk to children. Supported in their opinions by decades of research and the public policy interventions implemented in other nations, legislators in the United States over time also have become convinced of the need to decrease exposure of children to lead. the product of that evolving consensus is the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act (Title X) of 1992.

Most disturbing relative to toxic exposure is the multiplier effect of race and class as the greatest predictors of lead poisoning in children. If only considering the availability of scientific data and the enactment of lead-reduction and poison prevention policies, the persistent exposure of low-income, urban, largely African American children might be puzzling. After all, the location of lead is predictable, as are the precursors to poisoning. What seems apparent from this investigation is the notion that in a policy designed to influence interdependent issues such as childhood . . .

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