Short Summary: Many play areas are contaminated with toxic amounts of lead, but children still play on these areas. This project sets out to prevent children’s exposure to hazardous amounts of lead in their play areas. My name is Howard W Mielke. I live in New Orleans where I have been conducting studies on lead in the environment and children’s exposure for two decades. I have an eclectic background that includes chemistry, biology and geography. I received my PhD from the University of Michigan. My career includes teaching at public universities (UCLA, University of Maryland Baltimore County) and private institutions (Macalester College, Xavier University of Louisiana College of Pharmacy) and currently I am a faculty member in the Department of Pharmacology, Tulane University School of Medicine. My professional expertise is the study of poisons and especially the mapping of chemical environments of cities.
The lead safe play area campaign can be stated in four sentences. During the Twentieth century cities became contaminated by huge quantities of lead used in consumer products, especially paint and additives to gasoline. Young children are distressingly sensitive to lead dust and exposure causes multiple health outcomes including intellectual deficits and behavioral problems. Children are being exposed to lead dust when they play and because communities are unsafe for children they are unsafe for everyone. Our goal is to create lead safe play areas within contaminated neighborhoods of the city.
Brief description of campaign importance: As concerned citizens, parents, educators, and grandparents this project is vitally important to me and my partners at NolaUnleaded. As a result of studies in the 1970’s I became aware that cities were lead contaminated as the result of the daily accumulation of lead dust, especially from vehicle traffic because gasoline contained lead additives. My daughter became lead poisoned and after thorough investigation I discovered that she was playing in soil that would be recognized as hazardous waste if it were on industrial properties. When the soil was changed her blood lead rapidly declined. In the 1980’s I worked with a group to ban the use of lead in gasoline and while that was accomplished with a rapid phase down of lead additives initiated on January 1, 1986, the residue of the lead dust in urban environments has not being dealt with. Further investigation revealed patterns of lead poisoning of children that were related to city size and location of residences within cities. Children depend on the adult population to provide for their well-being. The goal of this project is to create lead safe play areas within lead contaminated communities of New Orleans.
What contributors will help achieve: My team mapped the environmental lead in New Orleans and we have a good understanding of communities where the highest amounts of soil lead exist in the city. The city and federal government are doing lead cleanup at public properties. New Orleans city officials are taking measures to clean up parks. The US Housing and Urban Development focuses on changing the environmental quality at public housing properties throughout the city of New Orleans. The major gap is cleanup of private properties. Contributions to this project go directly into changing the quality of play areas at childcare centers and church properties in New Orleans, properties that are not being handled by public sector actions. There are about 100 childcare centers that are located in high lead areas of the city. To date we have changed the play environments at 25 childcare centers. Our focus is also on church property play areas. Changing the play environment from lead hazardous to lead-safe provides an essential condition for children’s wellbeing and assists with the prevention of the lifelong problems that lead causes.
What We Need: The lead safe play area project needs funds to continue changing play areas to prevent lead poisoning of children. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that contributions are being used to improve the quality of areas in New Orleans where large numbers of children play. Your contribution also generates action toward a model project that can be duplicated by other cities in the U.S. The lead problem will not be controlled until children’s lead contaminated environments are dealt with.
More detail: The lead-safe play area project uses the soil lead map of New Orleans as a guide to select neighborhoods in the city that need attention. The project obtains signed consent forms from property owners. Then the contractor comes in to measure the area and bring in very low lead soil from outlying areas of the city. Each project takes about 4 to 6 hours to accomplish. Within hours we change the soil from Pb contaminated with 500 to 1000 ppm to very clean less than 10 ppm. The clean soil provides a margin of safety to children who use the play area.
As indicated by the childcare center map, there are numerous neighborhoods where play areas need treatment. The contributions will pay two people, Chris Gonzales and Eric Powell, who work together to locate childcare center and church properties and a local contractor, David Dapremont and crew, to haul low lead soil into high lead neighborhood properties and create lead safe play areas with contaminated communities of New Orleans. We also have a CPA and Executive Director who assists with the project. The project directs 100% of the contributed funds to support activities that treat and monitor the lead-safe play area projects at childcare center and church property play areas.
Lead Lab, Inc: is a not for profit 501(C) (3) corporation registered in Louisiana and all contributions are tax deductable to the fullest extent of the law. We welcome any contribution amount. As perks, we send out Mardi Gras beads and a Lead Safe Play Coloring books. Also, New Orleans is America's #1 Favorite City, and we seek to make it a lead safer place to live.
All funds will be used toward the stated goals, namely developing play areas on private properties, of the lead safe play area project.
The Impact: Children living in the inner city New Orleans exhibit many of the symptoms of lead poisoning: They demonstrate serious educational failure, rampant behavioral problems, and display notoriously high rates of violence as young adults. Education failure and violence are terribly expensive to the individuals, families and their communities. Many costly chronic diseases are also associated with childhood lead exposure including, kidney and cardiovascular disease. Reducing lead exposure by the youngest children should reduce the incidence of chronic diseases and improve community well-being.
The difference contributions will make: This campaign will make it possible to continue with the on the ground improvements at play areas where large numbers of children play. Without this service many children will continue to be exposed to their lead-contaminated play areas.
Why the project is valuable to the world. A successful primary play area lead prevention program in New Orleans would be a model program for other cities.
Lead Lab, Inc. has a successful track record with soil lead intervention:
- Several successful pilot projects have demonstrated the feasibility for changing the environment at residential and childcare properties in New Orleans. Now we seek to extend the project to additional communities in the city.
- NolaUnleaded is a partner organization of mothers who had children that were lead poisoned. They initiated a lead-safe project on 11 city parks which was carried out by the city in 2010-2011.
The issues facing our children can be successfully resolved if adults work together to improve the quality of the environment.
Some people just can’t contribute, but they can help: So folks if you cannot contribute please help get the word out and make some noise about the lead safe play area campaign. There are some excellent share tools available on Indiegogo! Please pass this campaign on to your friends and neighbors.