New Orleans, LA – In a stunning reversal of its long-held position, the Center for Disease Control announced in May that there is no acceptable level of exposure to lead. Researchers have proven exposure to lead even at low levels can impair a child’s learning capabilities and behavior, and even contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease.
Dr. Howard Mielke of the Tulane University School of Medicine is an internationally recognized research scientist and expert in the health dangers posed to children from exposure to lead. Among the first researchers to identify lead as a public health threat, Mielke’s work is considered pioneering research.
“The work I’ve done is to identify the percentage of population exposed to lead and where they live,” says Dr. Mielke. “We’ve found it’s an excessively large number of children. Lead poisoning in childhood wreaks the most havoc on the individual, affecting their learning and behavior."
Dr. Mielke was among those at the forefront of the successful effort to remove lead from gasoline. Today, Dr. Mielke’s main work has been overseeing efforts to decontaminate play areas and childcare centers throughout the city of New Orleans.
“We have air pollution laws and water pollution laws but we don’t have any soil pollution laws,” says Dr. Mielke.
Dr. Mielke’s research has revealed New Orleans’ lead level correlates geographically with the city’s violent crime rate while parks and playgrounds throughout the city have lead levels far above what would be considered safe for children. According to Dr. Mielke, serious intervention is a matter of public interest.
“We have to invest wisely in our future,” says Dr. Mielke. “The solution is not that expensive compared with the potential cost of doing nothing.”