Communities Pushed for Primary Prevention

In the year 2000, there was a Sierra Magazine article titled “Get the Lead Out: Activists Target Polluters, Negligent Landlords,” describes the situation that Wisconsin is in, beginning with one family’s lead scare leading to increased activism in Wisconsin to fight for the families that suffer from lead poisoning. The article sums up the activists’ purposes quite well with this quote, “‘We let children live in toxic houses, then act shocked when they have elevated blood levels of lead,’ says pediatrician Lanphear, ‘We need to screen houses for lead rather than use children as canaries in coal mines,” (Hattam, 2000, p. 24). This advancement to advocating for screenings of houses is incredibly clear as the pediatricians themselves are asking for these house screenings in order to protect the children before they have lead poisoning. In order for the activists to truly fight for the cause they needed to know what they were fighting against, which in the case of Melissa Gardner, was lead poisoning. Although she discovered her child had a false result, other families did not, which sparked her to action. 

This action is important to the movement of activists and parents against lead poisoning because it advocates for families impacted by the problem. The information available to parents is vast, but additional expertise is often needed to understand it. Gardner’s increased experience with the medical system allowed her to better understand the experiences of those who currently had children facing lead poisoning and was able to better help advocate for them because of that. 

The advocates and parents were successful in getting an ordinance passed that required landlords to remediate their properties in Wisconsin.  The reason we chose this article in the process was that the events in Wisconsin were similar to those in Omaha but the action taken was more immediately successful on the part of advocates getting something through the legal process without the EPA stepping in. The article shows how the problem was dealt with in areas outside of Omaha and that the push back from organizations of landlords was unsuccessful in stopping the ordinance. 

In Wisconsin, testing was required within a year and rewarded, monetarily to help with upkeep of the properties, those who kept their properties in good standard, which should have brought more landlords to their side; however, the ordinance also punished landlords who did not previously keep their properties clean and safe. This led to resistance as it held the landlords responsible for the harm inflicted on tenants who were living in substandard apartments and houses. Since lead paint is only dangerous if it is chipping, effectively maintained properties are not contributing to the hazard of lead paint chips.

Hattam, J. (2000). Get the Lead Out. Sierra 85 (3), 21-25.