Public Health Costs of Lead Poisoning Problem Mount on Top of Child Health Concerns

Mar 30, 2021

Local Resident Darlene Medley participated in a protest against lead in Syracuse before the pandemic. 
Credit Jessica Ruiz/The Stand

Syracuse’s Lead Poisoning crisis affects the health of as many as one-in-ten children.  It also has costs to society, in increased crime, teen pregnancy, and other problems that have to be addressed.  In part two of our series on lead poisoning: How some of those impacts play out in the community.


  

Dr. Sandra Lane, Professor of Public Health and Anthropology at Syracuse University and Research professor of Gynecology at Upstate Medical, has been part of the fight for a lead-free Syracuse for years. Back in 2008 she lead a group of student researchers who studied the financial impact lead poisoning has on the city.

“I brought them to City Hall and they met with members of the Common Council… They then looked at lead poisoning in. Syracuse and Onondaga County to see how much does lead cost the city every year in criminal justice costs, in teen pregnancy, in Medicaid costs, etc. and it was a half a million dollars a year.”

Next Week Joe Driscoll on New Lead Law

The high cost of lead poisoning – for both the poisoned children and the community as a whole – marks this issue as a public health crisis. But for many families, the battle against lead begins in the pediatricians office. Dr. Travis Hobart is the medical director of the Central and Eastern New York Lead Poisoning Resource Center. He explains that children poisoned as babies or toddlers are prone to risky behaviors in adolescence and adulthood.

"Children exposed to lead any level of lead in their system are more likely to have learning problems, behavior problems, decrease in IQ…Children exposed to lead are more likely to commit crimes in their in their teenage years and more likely to be more likely to become teenage parents."

As Dr. Lane and her student’s demonstrated, and as medical professionals like Dr. Lane and Dr. Hobart know, lead poisoning at epidemic levels can be costly, not only for the children, but for the communities they grow up in. Next week, we will meet Syracuse Common Councilman Joe Driscoll, to discuss his push for a citywide response to lead, and the lead ordinance that passed summer 2020.

The series on Syracuse's Lead Poisoning Crisis is a collaboration with The Stand, The Newhouse School of Commmunication. and WAER News.