BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Lead poisoning cases are on the rise in Baltimore.
The city council’s health committee wants the problem addressed but there may be too many homes with lead and too many people who don’t know they’re living in them.
Baltimore saw 99 cases of lead poisoning reported in 2018, up from 18 in 2017, Mary Beth Haller with the city’s health department told the council earlier this week.
“Even one child who is exposed to lead is going to have devastating lifelong effects from that exposure,” Haller said.
Experts say the main source of exposure is through lead-based paint.
“It’s concerning,” said Ruth Ann Norton, the CEO of the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative. “Any time you have an increase, you have to double down and look at what’s going on.”
The initiative is working to eradicate lead entirely from the city, sending workers to hundreds of houses a year to remove lead paint.
“We have to address lead poisoning, which is the most dangerous neurotoxin,” she said. “It causes cognitive impacts, reading disabilities, aggressive behavior, (higher) school dropout rates.”
Even traces of lead, such as the dust from opening and closing a window with lead paint, can create health hazards.
“Kids tend to play around windows,” lead worker Larry Brown said. “The dust gets on their hands and their toys.”
Yolanda Fletcher had no idea her home had lead paint until her granddaughter was diagnosed with borderline lead levels.
“It was really sad to know that it came from my home, you know, grandma(‘s) home,” Fletcher said.
Brown said his work isn’t done until the lead is completely gone, helping homeowners like Fletcher one at a time.