Lead Epidemic and Medical-Legal Partnerships

BenferTweetA recent Op-Ed in the New York Times shines a spotlight on the epidemic of lead poisoning in American cities.  Stories like those out of Flint, Michigan show the dangers of lead in water, but there is another culprit that is just as dangerous, one that disproportionately affects low-income and minority families: public housing.

The article is written by Emily Benfer, LAF’s partner in the Health Justice Project, a medical-legal partnership between LAF, Loyola University Chicago, and the Erie Family Health Center, where we work together to provide legal solutions to health problems, such as unhealthy housing conditions.  Emily  points out the dangerous discrepancy between the acceptable lead levels in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s standards and those laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  HUD’s standards don’t require landlords to do anything about lead paint or pipes until they are at nearly four times the maximum level recommended by the CDC.  And even then, many landlords do nothing, like in the case of Mahogany and her family:

“Take the case of 4-year-old Mahoghany Walker. When her blood lead levels started to rise, her family applied for a transfer. But the housing authority rejected the application, saying she had yet to reach the HUD threshold.

Like most people at risk of lead poisoning, the Walker family did not have the resources to hire a lawyer. But Mahoghany’s mother, Lanice Walker, contacted our team, and together we compelled the housing authority to grant her request for a safe place to live.”

You can read the whole article in the New York Times here, and you can learn a lot more about the impact of medical-legal partnerships on this blog.


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