Advocates call on Pa. to spend $40M to fight lead poisoning in kids | Monday Morning Coffee

This week, Oct. 24-30, is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week; the money would come from federal relief funds

October 25, 2021 7:10 am

(Getty Images)

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

A coalition of advocates and law statewide law enforcement groups, including the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, are calling on state officials to spend $40 million in American Rescue Plan funds to help prevent lead poisoning among the commonwealth’s children.

The call comes at the start of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Weekwith the law enforcement groups arguing that reducing the incidence of childhood lead poisoning not only has a public health benefit, but it also improves public safety as well.

Citing a May report by the bipartisan advocacy group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Pennsylvania, the law enforcement coalition pointed out that people exposed to lead in early childhood had an average of nearly five more delinquent acts as adolescents than their peers who were not similarly exposed.

The group also pointed to a “longitudinal study of the relationship between lead exposure and crime,” that they said showed that “populations that had lead in their drinking water had higher homicide rates after 20 years compared to areas where lead was not present in drinking water. Another study found that, as blood lead levels increased, so did the risk of being arrested for a violent crime in young adulthood.”

As the Capital-Star reported in Septemberresearch, by JAMA Pediatrics showed that an alarming 5 percent of Pennsylvania children have elevated levels of lead in their blood at more than two times the national rate. Only five other states nationwide had children with such dangerously high blood lead levels.

“As law enforcement, we see the challenges children face every day and preventable lead-paint poisoning should not be one of them,” David Steffen, the chief of of the Northern Lancaster County Regional Police Department and the president of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, said in a statement.

“By implementing lead remediation practices and investing in children’s health now, we can prevent Pennsylvania’s children from being exposed to lead and ensure that they are less likely to be involved in the justice system later in life,” Steffen said.

(c) Brian Jackson –

In Pennsylvania, nearly 9,000 children suffer from lead poisoning each year, according to research released in May by the Council for a Strong America. The main source of exposure comes from lead-based paint, which was not banned for residential use until 1978.

Pennsylvania has the fifth-oldest housing stock in the country, with 70 percent of the state’s residential units having been built before 1980, the council’s research indicated. The council’s report includes county-by-county fact sheets detailing lead exposure statewide.

Based on 2019 data, Pennsylvania had the second-highest number of children in the nation who tested positive for lead poisoning, the council’s report found. And of the 10 states with the highest rates of lead poisoning, the Keystone State was the second-worst at testing, the research further concluded.

In their statement, the law enforcement groups argued for an aggressive approach from state policymakers, stressing that “research shows the link between lead poisoning in children and future learning disabilities, behavior issues and problems with impulse control. This can lead to future juvenile and adult crime.”

Spending money now on lead paint remediation and early childhood blood lead level testing “are effective ways to keep our children safe and healthy and will benefit our commonwealth for generations to come,” Greg Rowe, the executive director of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, said.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf speaking with the press. Governor Tom Wolf visited Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Cumberland County Friday, July 31, 2021 to highlight the importance of outdoor spaces to our well-being during the pandemic and announce a plan for Pennsylvania’s state parks of tomorrow (Commonwealth Media Services photo).

In July, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration announced the state would spend $97 million on clean water infrastructure in 19 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

“Historic investments in clean water infrastructure like the ones made today continue to underscore our commitment to safe and reliable infrastructure for our communities,” Wolf said in a statement at the time. “Clean, lead-free drinking water and reliable wastewater and stormwater systems are the bedrock of vibrant civic centers and are essential to ushering in much-needed growth across the Commonwealth.”

Because ingesting lead paint chips and inhaling lead paint dust is “100 percent preventable, children and their families should not have to continue facing this detrimental and irreversible problem,” Bruce Clash, the Pennsylvania state director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, said in a statement.

“We will see a return on investment for every dollar that we put into remediating this issue and will save our children not only from the health effects of lead exposure, but also from potential future crime,” Clash said.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.

This week also is Media Literacy Weekand in this week’s edition of The Numbers RacketCassie Miller dives into some distressing data on the number of Americans who get their news from social media.

Our partners at City & State PA. talk to experts across the spectrum on the impact of a ban on single-use plastic bags.

U.S. Senate hopefuls John Fetterman (D) and Jeff Bartos (R) enlarged their campaign war chests during the third quarter of 2021, our partners at City & State Pa. also report.

On our Commentary Page this morning: As part of our package of Media Literacy Week coverage, a Penn State journalism professor offers some tips on helping to separate the noise from the news. No, the Founders didn’t think ‘freedom’ meant being able to do whatever you want. And opinion regular Dick Polman offers his tribute to the late Gen. Colin Powell, who died last week at the age of 84.

Commonwealth Court judges Kevin Brobson and Patricia McCullough (Pittsburgh City Paper photo)


The Pa. Bar Association is criticizing a new ad aired by state Supreme Court candidate Kevin Brobson, the Inquirer reports.

The Post-Gazette takes a look at the return of pre-pandemic traffic on the region’s roads.

PennLive profiles a state program that matches seniors to those who need housing.

No matter what happens, Allentown will have its first Latino mayor in January, the Morning Call reports.

The Citizens’ Voice profiles the 10 candidates seeking five, available seats on Luzerne County Council (paywall).

SEPTA’s union has voted to authorize a strike if it can’t reach a deal with management this week, 6ABC reports (via WHYY-FM).

Republicans in four states, including Pennsylvania, where Democrats control the governor’s office, the legislature, or both, are using statewide ballot initiatives to push through voter ID and other election law restrictions, the Associated Press reports (via WITF-FM).

Some providers in Erie County wasted more than 50 percent of their COVID-19 vaccine doses, GoErie reports.

The Observer-Reporter looks at Wolf administration efforts to address a statewide school bus driver shortage.

Officials at OSHA are telling states to protect workers from COVID-19 or risk losing their authority to do so, reports.

Roll Call updates on the latest on budget talks on Capitol Hill, with Democrats eyeing an ‘aggressive schedule’ to get it done.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:

What Goes On
The House comes in at 12 p.m., the Senate convenes at 1 p.m.
9 a.m., 515 Irvis: House State Government Committee
9:30 a.m., G50 Irvis: House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee
9:45 a.m., Capitol Steps: Rally for charter schools
10 a.m., 523 Irvis: House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee
10 a.m, 8E-BEW: Legislative Reapportionment Commission
10:30 a.m., Hearing Room 1, North Office Building: Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee
11 a.m., Capitol Steps: Rally calling for more resources for intellectual disability and autism service providers
12:30 p.m., Capitol Steps: Event calling for helping undocumented students access financial aid
1:15 p.m., Capitol Media Center: Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, others call for improving TANF food aid for those in need
Call of the Chair: Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee
4 p.m., Hearing Room 1, North Office Building: Legislative Reapportionment Commission

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Stephen Kinsey
9:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Dan Frankel
10 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver
11 a.m: Breakfast for Rep. Darisha Parker 
5 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Milou Mackenzie
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Todd Stephens
6 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Steve Malagari 
6 p.m.: Reception for Judge Kevin Brobson
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out an entirely ridiculous $22,500 today.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

Heavy Rotation
From their 1992 classic LP ‘Nonsuch,’ here’s England’s XTC, with the equally classic ‘Dear Madam Barnum.’ It’s one of those wonderful records that still sounds as fresh as the day it was released.

Monday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
If you’re an English football fan whose favorite team wears a red jersey, then Sunday was, indeed, the best of times and the worst of times. That’s because the Reds of Liverpool positively drilled the Red Devils of Manchester United 5-0 at United’s home turf of Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.