Q. I would
guess that a big factor for all the learning disabilities we're seeing among
low-income children is the lead poisoning in those inner-city neighborhoods.
As many as
one in 25 children may be affected by lead poisoning, especially those who live
in older inner-city apartments and homes.
World War II, lead was frequently used in paint to make it last longer. It used
to make up as much as 40% of paint by dry weight. Once the environmental
dangers were discovered, the amount of lead permissible in paint dropped
significantly. Paints that date from 1978 or sooner are OK. For the same
reason, we've moved to unleaded gasoline, and quit burning batteries and doing
other things that release lead into the atmosphere.
gets into a young child's body when the child chews or sucks on something old
and painted - windowsills, doors, even toys that have been contaminated with
lead-containing dust. The damage ranges from a lower IQ to possible learning
disabilities, attention deficit disorder / hyperactivity, and even violent
children's brains are developing at a rapid pace, the adulteration caused by
lead poisoning can do significant and permanent damage. A child with the
symptoms of anemia (black and sticky stools, rapid heart rate, jaundice,
fatigue) should be checked out for lead poisoning, since the two often
Ironically, parents who realize this
danger and attempt to remove the lead-based paint from their homes might be
making matters worse if they strip, sand or burn off the paint, because that
just releases the lead into the air again. That's why it's best to have a
professional with experience in lead removal do jobs like that. Local
governments are doing what they can in this regard.
Doctors recommend, as always, an
excellent diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, calcium, and iron,
because they help the child resist the lead contamination, and mitigate its ill
effects somewhat. In a home with lead paint, they recommend daily wet-mopping
floors, and using a soapy washcloth to wipe windowsills and other painted
surfaces that children may come in contact with.
Ironically, though, it's
not correct to blame lead poisoning for widespread low student achievement in
inner-city public schools. That's because children from the same types of homes
in the same neighborhoods who are enrolled in private schools or charter
schools are doing much better on standardized tests than their public-school
peers. This was revealed in spring 2008 in Arizona, where Mexican folk remedies
for illnesses, and the pottery-making process, are suspected of contributing to
the 250 cases of lead poisoning reported each year in Arizona, a state with 6
But two of Arizona's
top-ranked charter schools are located in the zip codes with the highest
concentration of the problem, and those charter schools have among the best
test scores in the state. Also in an area deemed high risk for lead poisoning
is the Millennium Worldwide Academy, famous for its students' ability to stump
politicians, business leaders and other dignitaries in impromptu quiz contests
with their superior knowledge base.
This paradox was raised
by the Goldwater Institute, www.goldwaterinstitute.org, in
contending that lead poisoning should not be blamed for low student
achievement, and calling for more educational freedom to allow disadvantaged
children to have more school choice.
Arizona School Boards Association has completed this helpful guide to lead
poisoning, even if its conclusions are in question since low-income kids in
private schools in the same lead-tinged neighborhoods are doing well. But
still, lead poisoning and all environmental hazards are of concern: