On Wednesday, Vox released a report linking lead exposure levels in 18 of Pennsylvania’s poorest cities to lead exposure levels in Flit, Michigan. In the article, the author notes that lead based paints are to blame for high exposure in Pennsylvania, but it did not explain the complexity of the problem.
Lead paint is a problem in Pennsylvania because it boils down to the fact that Pennsylvania has a lot of really old buildings. The Department of Health report highlights 2010 Census data showing that Pennsylvania ranks third in the country for most housing units built before 1950 and ranks fourth in the country for most housing units built before 1978, which is when lead paint was outlawed. Where are most of these buildings going to be concentrated?
In some of Pennsylvania’s poorest cities. The Vox article reported that these cities had higher exposure rates than Flint. These 18 cities have an average poverty rate of 27.5 percent that range from 19.5 and 38.7 percent. The average poverty rate for Pennsylvania is 13 percent. Federal grant distributed by state government agencies are available for some assistance, but these are areas where systemic poverty and poor infrastructure is prevalent.
A spokesperson from the Wolf Administration stated that the governor and state agencies”takes the issue of lead exposure very seriously and the governor will continue to work with the Department of Health, Department of Environmental Protection and other relevant agencies on a coordinated response to address lead exposure across the commonwealth.” The statement and releases from other officials go on to talk about what programs the DEP and DOH have to monitor lead in the water and the general public.