‘We’re using an iron fist, but a velvet glove’: Cleveland develops plan to stamp out lead crisis

Published: Jan. 23, 2019 at 5:40 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Because about 90 percent of Cleveland’s housing stock is old, most of the paint used back then was lead-based. Over time it chips, and children eat the sweet-tasting toxic metal--putting them at major risk for developmental and behavioral problems.

The city announced a Coalition of Community Partners to reduce lead exposure, and bring it down to what they call a lead safe level.

On Wednesday, Cleveland 19 spoke with city leaders about their effort to reduce lead within the city’s neighborhoods.

Blaine Griffin is the chair of the Health and Human Services Committee in Cleveland. He said part of the plan is to focus on landlords and their responsibilities to make their properties as lead-free as possible.

“We want to make sure we look at this with a holistic approach. We’re using an iron fist, but a velvet glove. We want to hold them accountable for their properties, but we also want to make sure that we identify whatever we can because a lot of these landlords, because of the Cleveland social economics, are also suffering. We want to make sure we look at this with a holistic approach,” he said.

After ingestion, lead posits in the soft tissue of the body, the brain, the kidneys, the liver and even in the bones. Mothers with high levels in their bone can pass the metal onto their unborn child.

Because of all these factors, and many more, there are renewed efforts by what is being called a Coalition of Community Partners to combat the effects of lead.

Here’s Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley, who represents Ward 13:

“This is not a problem that is going to be solved by the city government alone. We’re going to need the public sector. We’re going to need the private sector, the philanthropic community, the healthcare community to all make this a front burner issues, to all be committed to this issue so that we can create a level safe Cleveland."

Robin Brown got a phone call more than 20 years ago that scared her and put her daughter in the hospital. That call told her her then 5-year-old had 70 micro-grams per deciliter, 5 is considered dangerous, noting there is no safe level of lead. Robin has been advocating for children and against lead since 1999.

“What it does is it doesn’t just affect that child, it affects the whole family. I went through a guilt trip as mom. I’m supposed to protect my child. I’m supposed to be the one that knew the answers but here come something I didn’t even recognize. I didn’t see symptoms," she said.

The Coalition Community Partners hopes to significantly reduce lead exposure in the city by 2028.

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