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Beyond Flint: Tracking Lead's Toxic Threat

WHILE FLINT HAS BECOME a byword for poisoned children and government neglect, the threat posed by lead poisoning is far broader. Whether from leaching water systems, contaminated soil, or outdated housing stock, exposure to lead can inflict irreversible damage on children’s brains, leading to lower IQs, learning deficits and behavioral disorders. As stories from Flint and Baltimore suggest, lead poisoning is also an environmental justice story; residents of poorer neighborhoods are the most vulnerable to exposure. This webinar will provide essential context, resources and ideas for chronicling the threat posed by lead in communities nationwide. Panelists also will identify potential policy solutions and highlight forward-thinking leaders who are ahead of the curve when it comes to minimizing exposure.

WHEN: April 19, from 10 to 11 a.m. PST / 1 to 2 p.m. EST

TO REGISTER: Click here.

Our distinguished panel includes:

Alison Young

Alison Young is a reporter on USA Today's investigative team and a past president of Investigative Reporters and Editors’ board of directors. She also has reported for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Knight Ridder’s Washington Bureau, Detroit Free Press, The Arizona Republic and the Dallas Times Herald. Young’s reporting honors include three Gerald Loeb Awards, three Scripps Howard Awards and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award. She is a graduate of the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas. Her reporting on lead contamination issues includes the USA Today Network’s current “Beyond Flint” series, and the 2012 “Ghost Factories” investigation of lead-contaminated soil around forgotten smelter sites.

Brie Zeltner

Brie Zeltner joined The Plain Dealer in 2002, when she spent a year reporting on health issues as an intern. She returned in 2007 and now focuses on the health effects of poverty on children, families and the greater Northeast Ohio community. In 2015, Zeltner co-reported “Toxic Neglect,” an in-depth series that looked at the unsolved crisis of lead poisoning in Cleveland. Zeltner has written extensively on health issues that disproportionately affect Cleveland’s poor and minority children, including infant mortality, asthma, and lead poisoning. In 2015, Zeltner received the New York Academy of Medicine’s inaugural Urban Journalism award. She has also won numerous state and national awards for her work, including a feature report honored by the Epilepsy Foundation’s Distinguished Journalism awards and an investigative series on the FDA’s drug approval process. Zeltner is a Cleveland native and resident, and graduate of Dartmouth College.

Dr. Bruce Lanphear, a professor on the faculty of health sciences at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, is widely considered a leading researcher on lead poisoning. Lanphear is the principal investigator for a study examining fetal and early childhood exposures to prevalent environmental neurotoxins including lead, pesticides, mercury, alcohol, PCB's and environmental tobacco smoke. The study is also looking at how residential hazards and injuries affect children's health. Dr. Lanphear has extensive experience conducting community-based trials, including lead poisoning prevention, epidemiology of asthma, prevention of exposure to tobacco smoke and measurement of lead and allergens in housing. He obtained his M.D. from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, and an M.P.H. from Tulane’s School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine.

Jessica Welburn

Jessica Welburn, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of sociology and African American studies at the University of Iowa. Her research interests include race and ethnicity, social mobility, urban inequality, cultural sociology and qualitative research methods. Her work has focused on the experiences of African Americans in the post-Civil Rights era, including how they conceptualize their social mobility prospects and their strategies for navigating persistent racism and discrimination. She is currently working on a book tentatively titled “Keep on Pushin’ ” that uses in-depth interviews and ethnographic observations to explore how working class and middle class African Americans in Detroit navigate the city’s crumbling infrastructure. In January, she co-authored an article for The Root that carried the headline “How a Racist System Has Poisoned the Water in Flint, Michigan.” She obtained her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2011.

Webinars are free and made possible by the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation.  

Presenters' webinar slides:

Dr. Bruce Lanphear:

Suggested Reading


Toxic Neglect series, by Brie Zeltner and Rachel Dissell, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Toxic Neglect: Curing Cleveland's legacy of lead poisoning,” by Brie Zeltner and Rachel Dissell, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Lead in Your Water," USA Today Network Investigation

Beyond Flint: Excessive lead levels found in almost 2,000 water systems across all 50 states,” by Alison Young and Mark Nichols, USA Today

"How a Racist System Has Poisoned the Water in Flint, Mich.," by Louise Seamster and Jessica Welburn, The Root

How companies make millions off lead-poisoned, poor blacks,” by Terrence McCoy, The Washington Post

It’s Not Just Flint. There’s an Ugly History of Lead Poisoning and the Poor in the US,” by David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, Mother Jones

What the Science Says About Long-Term Damage From Lead,” by Aaron E. Carroll, The New York Times

Before Flint, Lead-Contaminated Water Plagued Schools Across U.S.,” by Jennifer Ludden, NPR

Flint Is in the News, but Lead Poisoning Is Even Worse in Cleveland,” by Michael Wines, The New York Times

The Plain Dealer series reveals the ongoing nightmare of lead poisoning,” by Ryan White, CHJ

How an investigative journalist helped prove a city was being poisoned with its own water,” by Anna Clark, Columbia Journalism Review

"Durbin, Quigley target lead hazards in Section 8 housing with new bill," by Michael Hawthorne, Chicago Tribuen

Videos and polls:

Little Things Matter: The Impact of Toxins on the Developing Brain,” (YouTube video), with Dr. Bruce Lanphear

"Poisoning America," The Open Mind, hosted by Alexander Heffner, Thirteen WNET

Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: February 2016, Kaiser Family Foundation 

Research studies:

Intellectual Impairment in Children with Blood Lead Concentrations below 10 μg per Deciliter,” New England Journal of Medicine, by Bruce Lanphear et al., The New England Journal of Medicine

Low-Level Environmental Lead Exposure and Children's Intellectual Function: An International Pooled Analysis,” by Bruce Lanphear et al., Environmental Health Perspectives

"The impact of low-level lead toxicity on school performance among children in the Chicago Public Schools: a population-based retrospective cohort study," by Anne Evens et al., Environmental Health

"Childhood Lead Poisoning: Conservative Estimates of the Social and Economic Benefits of Lead Hazard Control," by Elise Gould, Environmental Health Perspectives

Economic Costs of Childhood Lead Exposure in Low- and Middle-Income Countries,” by Teresa M. Attina and Leonardo Trasande, Environmental Health Perspectives

Reducing The Staggering Costs Of Environmental Disease In Children, Estimated At $76.6 Billion In 2008,” by Leonardo Trasande and Yinghua Liu, Health Affairs

Deficits in Psychologic and Classroom Performance of Children with Elevated Dentine Lead Levels” (1979), by Herbert L. Needleman, M.D. The New England Journal of Medicine. (A landmark study for historical perspective.)

Lead neurotoxicity in children: basic mechanisms and clinical correlates,” by Theodore I. Lidsky and Jay S. Schneider, Brain: A Journal of Neurology

Understanding international crime trends: The legacy of preschool lead exposure,” by Rick Nevin, Environmental Research

Monetary benefits of preventing childhood lead poisoning with lead-safe window replacement,” by Rick Nevina et al., Environmental Research

          The Health Matters Webinar series is supported by the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation. The Center for Health Journalism is solely responsible for the selection of webinar topics and speakers.


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