New Orleans, LA - In a study published by the National Academy of Sciences titled “Lead in the Human Environment,” geochemist Clair Patterson concluded that sometime in the near future urban areas of the United States will be rendered more or less uninhabitable by the poisonous industrial lead residues that have accumulated in the past century.
It was this study that sparked the interested of Dr. Howard Mielke, an internationally recognized research scientist and expert in the dangers posed to children from exposure to lead. Among the first researchers to identify lead as an urban health threat, Dr. Mielke has since dedicated his career to raising the public’s awareness of the harmful effects of lead exposure and has played an integral role in interventionist efforts to reduce contamination, particularly in child play areas.
“The connection between prolonged lead exposure and impaired cognitive development has been well established. It’s not something we can continue to ignore,” says Dr. Mielke. “The community must be safe for children in order to be safe for everyone.”
Despite Dr. Mielke’s successful campaign for a rapid reduction of lead from gasoline in 1986, there remains a reservoir of lead in the environment.
“In a city like New Orleans where there’s a lot of soil, the lead dust accumulates in that soil,” says Dr. Mielke. “That’s how it ends up in child play areas.”
Still, the question remains: How do you prevent something so harmful and ubiquitous?
“The city is actually changing contaminated soil with clean soil at parks and that is a major precedence for the city and a good direction for policymaking in the city of New Orleans,” says Dr. Mielke. “That’s one thing we’re working very hard to continue.”