Richer or Poorer Could Mean Sickness or Health

Newberger, J.
Year Published: Not Dated
Connect for Kids
Benton Foundation

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that lead exposure and dental caries continue to pose health risks to urban minority children. Poor children have significant levels of lead in their systems, especially in the eastern cities of the United States. Many Americans believe that the problem of lead contamination has been eradicated. But although lead paint and leaded gasoline are things of the past, neighborhoods of pre-1950 houses often test positive for high levels of lead because of painted surfaces. The American Alliance to End Lead Poisoning reports that nearly one million children continue to suffer from elevated blood lead levels. Lead poisoning results in diminished intelligence, behavior problems, learning disabilities, and diminished quality of life. Because the primary source of poisoning is lead paint, poor children who live in older, substandard housing are prime targets for contamination. The 1999 Children's Lead Screening Accountability for Early Intervention Act was sponsored by Democrats Robert Torricelli of Rhode Island and Jack Reed of New Jersey. The Act is designed to improve identification and treatment of lead poisoned children who receive Medicaid or who participate in other federal health programs. A second health problem addressed in this report is 100% preventable. Oral health is an important issue because children whose teeth are rotting in their mouths have difficulty concentrating. They have chronic pain, often disfigured smiles, and poor speech development. Only 18% of Medicaid-eligible children receive regular services. Ion addition, 25% of children account for 80-% of all tooth decay in the general population. Other health issues that affect children include maternal mortality and HIV. Because these and other health issues are in the control of adults, lawmakers must take preventative measures to narrow the gap between children in racial, ethnic, and economic groups.

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