Tipping Point: St. Louis Demolitions Bring Renewed Risk for Lead Poisoning More Than 2,600 St. Louis Children Have Measurable Levels of Lead in Their Blood, Which Can Lead to Brain Damage

By Blythe, Bernhard; O'Dea, Janelle et al. | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), January 6, 2019 | Go to article overview

Tipping Point: St. Louis Demolitions Bring Renewed Risk for Lead Poisoning More Than 2,600 St. Louis Children Have Measurable Levels of Lead in Their Blood, Which Can Lead to Brain Damage


Blythe, Bernhard, O'Dea, Janelle, specialist, Post-Dispatch data, reporter,, Nguyen, Andrew, developer, newsroom, produced the accompanying graphics, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


When vacant structures fall, heavy metals in dust travel for blocks Containment practices can double cost of taking down buildings Damage to developing brains from lead poisoning is permanent---

Toxic lead coursed through Christopher Holland Jr.'s body at two critical points in his life: as a toddler poisoned by lead paint and as a 20-year-old struck down by bullets.

"I saw how it affected his life -- with relationships, with his anger issues, always complaining that his head hurt," Christopher Holland Sr. said of the lead poisoning discovered when his son, known as "Lil Chris," was 4 years old and living in north St. Louis.

Lead poisoning cases have dropped dramatically since the 1990s, when Lil Chris was a child, but the problem hasn't gone away. The city's old housing stock still poses a danger to children in many neighborhoods.

Last year in St. Louis, more than 2,600 children had measurable levels of lead in their blood, which can lead to stunted growth, learning disabilities, risky behavior and other health problems. There is no safe amount of lead in a body, and damage to developing brains is permanent.

The main source of lead poisoning here is lead paint, banned in 1978 but too late for the nearly 90 percent of housing stock in St. Louis that was built earlier. City officials worry that demolition of old houses could reverse the years of progress in reducing lead poisoning.

The renewed push to demolish vacant buildings, generally thought to be a positive step for decaying urban areas, could have unintended and long-term public health consequences.

When the structures fall, heavy metals carried by dust can travel several blocks, drifting into open windows and settling into neighbors' yards. Demolitions elsewhere have been blamed for a rise in lead-poisoned children, who in turn are at higher risk of criminal behavior as adults.

'MY BOYS WERE MY LIFE'

Christopher Holland Sr. graduated from high school in 1988. Chris Jr. came along the next year, his brother Demontae in 1991. The family lived in a $210-a-month apartment on Ashland Avenue with "those windows with the wooden frames with the paint chipping," Holland said.

Even when houses are repainted, disturbing walls or opening windows can dislodge paint chips and dust to be ingested or inhaled by children.

After both boys tested high for lead during a regular checkup as preschoolers, "It was really tragic for me, being a young parent at that time with two kids. My boys were my life. For them to be sick like that, it was really on me," Holland said.

Nearly 30 years later, old houses in St. Louis continue to poison children despite an aggressive anti-lead campaign by former Mayor Francis Slay, who vowed to eradicate lead poisoning in the city by 2010. The results of the campaign were impressive -- the number of elevated blood lead levels dropped from nearly 1 in 3 children in 2000 to about 1 in 50 for the last few years.

But just as the city reduced its rates of lead poisoning, federal health authorities moved the goal line. In 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lowered the definition for potential lead poisoning from 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood to 5, based on evidence that children can suffer harm from lower concentrations of lead.

In 2017, there were 678 children ages 6 and younger in St. Louis with blood lead levels above 5 micrograms, and an additional 150 with a lead level above 10. State health records show 1,660 children tested at a level between 3 and 5, enough to cause developmental delays.

"We did a great job for 20 or 30 years, then we've kind of let our guard down," said Dr. Christina Gurnett, a Washington University pediatric neurologist. "In a way it's off our radar screens because the levels are so low that we can't on an individual basis detect who's being harmed by this low level of exposure."

Lower concentrations of lead are more challenging to identify and treat because a child may not show immediate, obvious symptoms. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Tipping Point: St. Louis Demolitions Bring Renewed Risk for Lead Poisoning More Than 2,600 St. Louis Children Have Measurable Levels of Lead in Their Blood, Which Can Lead to Brain Damage
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.