Philly.com Looking For Community to Help With Lead Investigation
In late October 2016, Philly.com began a series of investigative articles that addressed the issue of high rates of lead poisoning throughout Philadelphia. With the nation focused on the crisis in Flint, Michigan, journalists at Philly.com decided it would be pertinent investigate similar cases of children poisoned by lead in Philadelphia.
According to a statement prepared by reporters who worked on the story, as their research progressed they “eventually discovered that the problem in this city, with its time-worn housing stock and deep poverty, was chronic and far worse — poisoning children more severely and at much higher rates.”
Their research found that thousands of Philadelphia children, mostly minority and poor, have been affected by lead poisoning, with devastating health effects. Long-term lead poisoning in young children, can cause developmental delay, speech and language problems, decreased bone and muscle growth, and poor muscle coordination.
Philly.com has since published several more articles on the subject. These can be found here: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/special_packages/toxic-city
Currently, the publication is investigating instances of lead poisoning in the zip codes 19125 and 19134, which cover much of the Riverwards.
“Historical environmental data points to these two zip codes as having a high concentration of smelters as well as pockets with high levels of lead contamination,” journalists Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman told Spirit News in an email. “With your help, our current research can provide a much fuller picture.”
Philly.com has set up an SMS tip line which allows people in these area codes to communicate with journalists on the subject. Anyone who believes they or someone they know has been affected by lead poisoning is urged to text LEAD to 215-234-1722.
“Please text us if you want to know where lead contamination exists in your neighborhoods, based on current testing and other records,” said Laker and Ruderman. “For information on how to better protect yourself and your families from the perils of lead and other hazards, please text LEAD to 215-234-1722.”
Reactions to the series so far, from city officials, have been urgent and immediate. According to the statement prepared by the publication, the day after the story was published, more than a dozen city and state lawmakers vowed at a news conference to work on new ways to the end the city’s most devastating and preventable public-health menace,
The mayor later promised to beef up staffing and begin to enforce a four-year-old law that requires landlords to certify that their properties are lead-safe before renting to families with young children. A state senator also scrambled to secure grant money within two months of the story’s publication.
Based on these reactions, the work of these journalists has begun to affect vital change within Philadelphia. Residents of 19125/34 are encouraged to help further this change. Again, if you have any information on lead poisoning in these areas, please contact the SMS tip line listed.