Anti-lead poisoning group and police to join efforts

January 21, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

A group that fights lead poisoning said yesterday it would work with Baltimore police to train children, parents and police officers how to detect and prevent the childhood hazard.

"It's our PAL to PAL program," said Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning.

PAL is an acronym for two organizations. It stands for Parents Against Lead, the original name of the 12-year-old nonprofit coalition, and for the more familiar Police Athletic League.

The training sessions on lead poisoning will begin Feb. 3 and will be phased in over five months at the 27 Police Athletic League centers run by Col. Alvin Winkler.

The initiative, one of several new coalition projects, is designed to improve health and reduce crime, said Norton.

Officials believe many crimes are committed by young people affected by lead poisoning. Recent studies "have proven the direct correlation between childhood lead poisoning and increased rates for children in juvenile delinquency and criminal activity," Norton said.

Inhaling or eating lead adversely affects the central nervous system. In children, it can lead to behavior problems and learning disabilities, lowered IQs, mental retardation and death.

At the news conference attended by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Norton thanked government officials for city and state efforts to respond to lead paint poisoning. But she said much more needs to be done. Schmoke agreed.

Norton said the city must enforce Baltimore City Health Department lead violation notices more vigorously, coordinate city efforts to prevent lead paint poisoning and make people more aware of the dangers.

"Many property owners simply ignore the notices entirely," said Norton, even though they can be subject to criminal misdemeanor charges and fined $500 per day for failing to have lead-based paint removed from the premises.

Schmoke said the city would improve enforcement of lead violations.

He also pledged that the Human Services "sub-Cabinet" in his administration would focus on interrelated lead poisoning problems to try to better coordinate health, housing and other services affecting families.

Yesterday's news conference was held at the advocacy group's new headquarters at 2714 Hudson St., in Canton, opened in October.

The quarters contain 6,800 square feet, compared with 1,000 square feet at the old offices at 28 E. Ostend St. The extra space is partly used to store lead-reduction materials used in cleaning up homes polluted with lead.

The coalition announced other plans:

Sponsoring an AmeriCorps service program called CLEARCorps to remove lead for free or modify the risk of lead in the homes of at least 75 families. The program is intended as lead hazard reduction or emergency lead cleanup but not full abatement.

bTC Working with community groups, property owners and others to try to find permanent "lead safe" housing for families that have discovered their children have been lead-poisoned at home.

Offering for the first time a free counseling service to tenants, property owners and community groups affected by lead

poisoning.

Information will be distributed at resource centers to be set up soon in 28 branches of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. It will be available on the Internet Jan. 30 at this address: www.leadsafe.org.

Call 410-534-6447 or 1-800-370-LEAD to receive free information.

Pub Date: 1/21/98

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