Can Philadelphia School Officials Be Trusted With Millions In State Money To Clean Up Lead Paint?

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"This is an issue in which we all have to work together to come up with real solutions," State Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, said Monday of lead paint in Philadelphia homes.
by Barbara Laker

, Staff Writer Twitter icon @barbaralaker | Mail icon lakerb@phillynews.com svg xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" viewbox="146 290 500 500" enable-background="new 146 290 500 500"">>Close icon Mail icon Email Twitter icon @barbaralaker

 

 

Barbara Laker

Staff Writer

A native of Kent, England, Barbara Laker came to the United States with her family when she was 12. In high school, as Watergate broke, Barbara knew she wanted to be a reporter. She graduated from the University of Missouri Journalism School in 1979. A reporter for more than 30 years, she joined the Daily News in 1993 and has been a general assignment reporter, assistant city editor and investigative reporter. With colleague Wendy Ruderman, she won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism for the series “Tainted Justice,” about a rogue narcotics squad in the Philadelphia Police Department. Laker co-authored the book Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love with Ruderman in 2014. 

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Nearly a dozen state and local lawmakers Monday called for more money and staff to combat the "crisis" of childhood lead-poisoning in Philadelphia and elsewhere in the state.

Several Philadelphia council members also said the city must enforce existing laws to crack down on landlords whose properties injure families with unsafe levels of lead contamination.   

"This is an issue in which we all have to work together to come up with real solutions," State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.). "We are not going to run away from it."

 

The demand by officials came in response to Toxic City, an ongoing Inquirer/Daily News/Philly.com series that showed that in Philadelphia thousands of children are newly poisoned by lead at a far higher rate than those in Flint, Mich. 

Last year, nearly 2,700 children tested in Philadelphia had lead levels in their blood of at least five micrograms per deciliter — the level the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has used since 2012 for public health officials to intervene. 

But the Public Health Department checked on the houses of only about 500 children, those with lead poisoning at level 10 and above.  

Lead poisoning can cause irreversible damage, including lower IQ and lifelong learning and behavioral problems.

City health officials said their efforts to address the lead scourge have been hampered over the past three years by losing $3 million in federal funding out of a $9 million program, leading to cuts of 40 of 65 positions in the Lead and Healthy Homes program.

Philadelphia did create the nation's first Lead Court in 2002 to enforce laws requiring landlords and homeowners to rid their properties of lead perils. The city however brings only the most serious cases into Lead Court, 121 cases last year.

Hughes, chairman of the state senate appropriations committee, organized the Monday news conference.  

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