New Orleans, LA – Study lead author Felicia Rabito says 27 percent of the homes tested in 2007 and 2008 had soil levels three times the safe limit. And high levels are found throughout the city. Prior studies have shown higher levels in low-income neighborhoods with older, less-maintained homes.
"In areas of the city that you wouldn't otherwise expect it we're seeing lead hazards. And our hypothesis from the findings of this study is that it's probably due to the vast demolition and reconstruction that happened after Katrina to homes that are very old and had lead hazards."
Studies done after the storm in 2006 showed a sharp decline in lead levels. It's thought to be a result of sediment in floodwaters covering entire neighborhoods. The new study checked 109 homes in neighborhoods actively rebuilding. And those areas included old houses prevalent in New Orleans that were built before 1950 and likely contained lead. Rabito says lead removal can be done safely when paint is carefully removed, not sand-blasted into dust that spreads. Dr.Tami Singleton is a pediatrician at Tulane School of Medicine, and says children -often crawling around and putting things in their mouths -- are at the greatest risk from lead poisoning.
"Children are constantly growing. Their bones are growing. They have a higher need for more red blood cells. And so as that growth process is happening if there's anything there that would change the ability to make those red blood cells then that's a really big deal. And that's part of what lead does."
The mayor's adviser on environmental affairs says children can be tested at no charge through the Childhood Lead Prevention Program at clinics listed by the city health department.
For WWNO, I'm Eileen Fleming.