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Boston Lead Summit Draws Legislators, Policy Makers, and Community Leaders Boston's Goal: First City in the Nation to End Children Lead Poisoning

Release Date: 11/29/2001
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office (617-918-1008) Skye Schulte, Tufts University (617-627-4679)

BOSTON - Community leaders and policy-makers met today at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to outline a blueprint for ending childhood lead poisoning within the next three years in the city of Boston.

"We have the infrastructure in place for Boston to be the first city in the nation to end childhood lead poisoning," said Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston.

The all-day Boston Summit on Childhood Lead Poisoning, subtitled, Let's End It Here!, brought together the citizens, activists and city, state and federal officials crucial to writing a blueprint for accomplishing this goal by 2005.

"One in five African-American children and one in six low-income children who live in older homes have high blood lead levels. That is unacceptable," said Leonard C. Alkins, president of the Boston Branch of the NAACP, who gave the keynote address entitled: Lead Poisoning and Racial Justice.

In Boston, an estimated 90,400 homes – 40 percent of all homes in the city – contain lead-based paint that could be a potential hazard. In Boston last year, more than 1,300 children had elevated blood lead levels. Lead poisoning causes permanent damage to the nervous system, IQ loss, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems. Children are most commonly poisoned by lead paint and dust from their homes.

Despite an overall decline in lead poisoning rates, many neighborhoods, including Dorchester and Roxbury, have not seen their rates decrease as quickly. Low-income children and children of color continue to be disproportionate victims of this disease.

"It is unacceptable that thousands of children are still being poisoned each year by lead, many of them right here in Boston," said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office, which provided more than $2 million this year to support lead prevention efforts in the region. "Low-income and minority children living in neighborhoods like Roxbury and Dorchester suffer disproportionately from lead poisoning and other environmental hazards. Today's conference will explain how we will better target our resources to virtually eliminate childhood lead poisoning in Boston by 2005."

The Lead Action Collaborative, one of the sponsors of the event, presented a Life-Time Achievement Award to U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy for his years of leadership in working to end childhood lead poisoning.

"I am honored to be receiving this award and to see the progress that Massachusetts has made in protecting our children from environmental threats," Senator Kennedy said. "It is exciting that Boston has set the goal to have no more lead poisoned children by 2005."

Other speakers included: Charlotte Golar-Richie, executive director of the Department of Neighborhood Development, who gave the welcome address; 5th Suffolk District Rep. Marie St. Fleur; Stephanie Pollack, vice-president of the Conservation Law Foundation; Paul Hunter, director of the Mass. Department of Public Health's Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program; and John Auerbach, director of the Boston Public Health Commission's Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.