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Lead poisoning concerns brought to Cleveland City Council in 1st public comment session

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 9:15 PM EDT
CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Residents are finally allowed to speak at Cleveland City Council meetings.

Several citizens who took the podium Monday night voiced a long-standing concern about lead poisoning and its effects on Cleveland kids.

19 Investigates dug deeper to see where the city is now in the process of fixing the problem.

Three of ten people who signed up to speak before the council came here to request help for children suffering from lead exposure.

“This is a public health emergency,” Yvonka Hall said. Hall works with the Cleveland Reed Advocate for Safe Housing (CLASH).

She and two others who took the podium want the city to fund lead testing at the McCafferty Health Center in Ohio City and the J. Glensmith Health Center in Glenville.

The group also proposed a potential mobile testing unit that could offer to test anywhere it’s needed.

Lead-based paint and leaded dust are the primary causes of lead poisoning in Ohio.

Derrick Wade lost his 12-year-old son to multiple health conditions, including lead poisoning several years ago.

“I want to point out the urgency in this city of ridding our city of lead poisoning,” Wade told council Monday.

“We can get them behavioral therapy, nutritional therapy but we have to find them. We have to know who they are,” CLASH representative Mario Polard said. “The pandemic has caused a drastic decline in lead testing in children.”

For that reason, Polard and the other CLASH representatives want to see some of the money coming from the federal government in the American Rescue Plan Act go towards the testing they’re requesting.

Both mayoral candidates have campaigned on a promise to improve the lead poisoning issue.

In the outline of his plan for the city, Justin Bibb said, “We must move faster on testing and remove lead paint and pipes that poison our children.”

According to data on Council president Kevin Kelley’s website, 25% of children in Cleveland are exposed to lead at or above the CDC reference level by the time they start kindergarten.

In Cleveland, more than 90% of the housing stock was built before 1978, when residential lead-based paint was outlawed.

What’s been done about the problem while Kelley’s been on council?

The city’s Lead Safe Coalition has raised nearly $30 million for the Lead Safe Home Fund to support property owners trying to fix up old properties.

But, those fixes can’t come vastly or fast enough for residents who live in those neighborhoods.

“I urge the city council to look at remedies and ways to remedy the situation,” Wade said.

Wade and the other speakers are also hoping that the new platform at council will help their ideas be heard, as advocates for public comment have been hoping for years.

“These opinions and observations of the public will result in insightful thoughts that will help the city get things accomplished in a quicker and better way,” candidate for city council, Michael Hardy said.

Other residents who spoke at Monday night’s council meeting asked the city for help paying workers fairly, fighting crime, and keeping up community icons like the west side market.

One citizen, who had also put his name in the Mayor race, spoke opposing the city’s proposal that would fund improvements to Progressive Field.