The day after a comprehensive investigation by the Inquirer reported on Philly children suffering from lead paint poisoning, leaders gathered to demand more enforcement of housing codes.
“This is worse than the situation in Flint, Michigan,” state Sen. Vincent Hughes declared at a news conference at City Hall on Monday, joined by members of City Council, attorneys, tenant representatives and religious leaders.
“It is simply unacceptable that so many of our children in Philadelphia are being exposed to toxic substances such as lead,” Hughes said. “We need an immediate influx of funding to deal with issue and protect the most vulnerable members of our society.”
The Inquirer’s latest article in its Toxic City series, published Sunday, focused on stories of children now suffering developmental disabilities due to their exposure to toxic lead paint, either through dust particles in the air they breathe or chips of lead paint.
The paper found that 2,700 Philly kids tested positive for high levels of lead exposure in 2015, a 75 percent drop over the past decade, but still twice as high as the national average.
“Prolonged exposure to lead has a very detrimental impact on children, including impairing cognitive functions and creating major behavioral problems,” a news release from Hughes’ office noted.
Lead paint was made illegal in 1978. About 92 percent of Philly homes were built before that year.
City law requires landlords to certify properties occupied by children under six as “lead safe,” but the Inquirer reported “landlords largely ignore the law.” And the city’s Department of Public Health has lost 30 percent of its funding and 60 percent of its staff for a lead paint program, which has impacted enforcement of existing laws.
Hughes is calling a hearing of the Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee on Nov. 14 to address taking prompt action to resolve the crisis.