Unhealthy housing is the real crime against Baltimore's...


September 06, 2001

Unhealthy housing is the real crime against Baltimore's children

Don Ryan's column "Research on lead hazards is solution, not problem" (Opinion Commentary, Aug. 28) eloquently expressed the fact that the lead abatement research conducted by the Kennedy Krieger Institute made homes safer for many children in East Baltimore and hundreds of thousands of others in lead-contaminated homes across the country.

In its rush to judgment against the Kennedy Krieger Institute, the Maryland Court of Appeals made gratuitous comments that indicate it understands little about ethical research and the advancement of public health ("Court ruling concerns Md. researchers," Aug. 27).

The only way to develop effective treatments and preventions for illnesses affecting children is to conduct ethical scientific research. Nearly all research involves some risk, but if we apply the judges' standards to scientific research, the vaccine to prevent polio, for example, would never have been tested and deployed.

Worse still, the judges' unwarranted analogies to the horrific misdeeds of the Nazis, the Tuskegee "experiment" and other emotionally charged issues grabbed national headlines and slandered well-meaning and dedicated people and institutions to no purpose.

The great crime is not that Kennedy Krieger carried out this trial to advance public health, but that the public has allowed unhealthy housing to remain the norm for East Baltimore's children.

If the judges needed to stray into opinions unrelated to their charge, this is the issue that deserved their attention.

Dr. Alfred Sommer


The writer is dean of Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Demonizing the `good guys' in fight against lead poisoning

We are writing to voice concerns regarding recent Sun articles regarding lawsuits brought on behalf of lead-poisoned children against the Kennedy Krieger Institute. In general, we are concerned that the "good guys" are being punished for attempting to do good.

For the past 20 years, Dr. Mark Farfel and his colleagues at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, through various research projects, have probably done more to promote safe and responsible lead-poisoning prevention programs than any group in the country, if not the world. Their efforts have probably helped prevent countless children from becoming lead poisoned, not only here in Baltimore but across the country.

Specifically, we are concerned about the tenor of "A mother's hope crumbles into despair over lead study" (Aug. 23). Its references to the Tuskegee experiment and children as "guinea pigs" and implication that families were "enticed" to participate are unfair and inflammatory.

As laypeople not party to this lawsuit, we are ignorant of the legal theories and principles involved in it.

We remain concerned, however, that in the most advanced and affluent country in the world, several hundred thousand children continue to get lead-poisoned each year and "good guys" such as Dr. Farfel, who have spent their professional lives trying to prevent lead poisoning, find themselves pursued by lawyers and lawsuits and unfairly vilified by the press.

Jim McCabe

Susan Kleinhammer


The writers are, respectively, president and vice president of Leadtec Services Inc.

Promoting a friendly aide raises taxpayers' concerns

I agree that the governor's private life should not be a subject for the press ("GOP leader criticizes Glendening's reported relationship with aide," Sept. 1).

However, when the governor promotes a personal friend from an appointments secretary to a deputy chief of staff with a $103,588 salary, this is a concern of the state's taxpayers.

John C. Baker

Ellicott City

Carjacking incident points to problem of unattended kids

The Sun's article "Two children abducted by carjacker are uninjured" (Aug. 30) offers still more evidence of the lack of responsibility of some adults who leave children unattended in cars and the dangers of doing so.

Why aren't such violations punished in some way? How many other times have these toddlers been left in the car alone?

And what will happen next time?

Mary Gordon


Leaving racism conference is a big step backward

Only a country that has engaged in the practice of slavery could stand beside Israel and withdraw from the United Nations conference on ending racism ("U.S., Israel leave race conference," Sept. 4).

While the rest of the world moves forward in abolishing bigotry and hatred, the United States has just taken a step so far backward that it puts us before the time of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Nino Kader


If reparations are owed, who gets the bill?

When the issue of reparations to descendants of former slaves arises, my first thought is: Who should pay ("Lessons to give and take," editorial, Aug. 25)?

Slavery in North America was first documented in 1619 at Jamestown, when a Dutch ship traded African slaves to the English settlers for food.

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