The pediatrician who exposed the Flint water crisis is bringing her message to Kalamazoo. Mona Hanna-Attisha will speak at a forum on lead paint in Kalamazoo on Wednesday, November 6.
Lead paint was banned in 1978 but it's still a big problem in some of Kalamazoo's older neighborhoods. That's becaume many of their houses were built before the ban took effect. Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services is holding the event to raise public awareness of the issue. KNHS has began a 30-month project to remove lead from 72 Kalamazoo homes. Its top priority is households with children under six who have high levels of lead in their blood.
Hanna-Attisha says that the problem is maddening, since lead is one of the oldest and most studied toxins.
“As a pediatrician we know what lead does. Incredible science has gotten us to the point of realizing that there is no safe level of lead and that it impacts really the core of: cognition, behavior, development. And really the whole life course direction of a child.”
The first 200 attendees at Wednesday’s event will receive a free copy of Hanna-Attisha’s book, What the Eyes Don’t See.
Hanna-Attisha says children are at the greatest risk of being affected by lead poisoning. But although there are steps parents can take to reduce that risk, she says the responsibility shouldn’t fall on a parent’s shoulders.
“Too often with lead we blame the victims. We blame parents and children, specifically low income and minority families, saying ‘oh your house isn’t kept up enough, you didn’t wash your kid’s hands enough.’ And this is not something that parents can handle on their own. We need policies.”
Although KNHS hopes its lead abatement program will help, its executive director, Matt Lager, says it will only scratch the surface of the problem.
“I think that a major component of what we as a community will have to focus on is education around safe ways to renovate, safe ways to clean and increasing awareness so that all children are tested for blood lead levels.”
Wednesday’s lead forum starts at 6 p.m. at Chenery Auditorium on South Westnedge Avenue in Kalamazoo.