Quiet Threat to Hispanic Kids – Sept 22, 2023



National Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the many contributions of the Hispanic community. While we spotlight notable Americans of Hispanic heritage, there are thousands of Hispanic children in our Commonwealth who live with a stealthy threat to their health.

That threat is lead paint poisoning. Not what you were thinking, right?  

According to the Pennsylvania Lead Surveillance Report in 2021, Hispanic children statewide are poisoned by lead at rates twice as high as white children. In some southeastern counties, the rates are staggering. Twelve times more Hispanic children in Delco are poisoned than those who are white. In Delco, the rate is seven times higher.

The main culprit is old houses and apartments that are more affordable but were built before lead paint was banned.

Lead is toxic – there is no cure for its lifelong effects. In children, this poisonous metal wreaks havoc, causing deficits in motor skills, speech, hearing, and cognitive ability. Early intervention is the best course of action, but that’s only possible if families are informed and able to do something.

For Hispanic residents, the problem with lead poisoning is complex, according to Emma Restrepo, host of the DosPuntos podcast and independent reporter for the Children First disParities Media Project. When she interviewed Latinos living in Montgomery County, many said they didn’t even know about the risks. For those whose children had been poisoned by lead paint, they experienced difficulty getting their apartments’ lead problem addressed.

Frequently, they said, their landlord is also their supervisor or the owner of the construction company for they work for, so they’re don’t want to cause a fuss. Some said they have spent money or used their own labor to try to eliminate the lead exposure in their units.

In addition, fear of their having children taken away for negligence and language barriers hold some Hispanic parents back from getting their children tested when they learn about the risks.  “We are in a crossfire,” said one Latino resident who asked to remain anonymous.

The crossfire doesn’t end in the home. Nearly 20,000 PA children – mostly Hispanic – miss routine health screenings and doctor visits because they don’t have proper documentation and are denied public coverage.

And because six out of ten Hispanic students attend grossly underfunded public schools, far too many Hispanic children and teens can’t get the extra academic attention needed to overcome lead-related learning challenges.

Honoring Hispanic Heritage Month means seriously addressing the disproportionate impact of lead poisoning of Hispanic kids. If you want to find out how you can save children from harm, attend the Lead-Free Promise Project Southeast Pennsylvania Regional Conference on October 25th.

By ending lead paint poisoning, we’ll make it possible for the next Sonia Sotomayor, Lin Manuel-Miranda, or Sammy Sosa to make their mark on America’s future.

Let’s show our strong support for public education! Submit your comments/questions to the PCN Capitol Preview show on Monday from 9:00 to 10:00 AM as Children First’s Donna Cooper and Anne Clark of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, talk education news in PA. Details here.

The hateful school board rhetoric has gotten so bad that people are now threatening to literally blow schools up. Dozens of PA schools have been subject to bomb hoaxes and Perkiomen Valley school students yesterday had to evacuate after the district got “concerning and specific” bomb threats. 

Join Children First as we tackle THREE BIG WAYS TO CHANGE CHILDREN’S LIVES!

We’ve heard from teens that they really need:
– Mental health support,
– Racially/ethnically diverse teachers so they see themselves in their teachers,
– Career and technical education so they have options for life and career.

Register www.childrenfirstpa.org/bigactionplan

“There are certain standards that must be
universal to ensure each and every student
has the opportunity to succeed. We must
keep student achievement at the center of
our focus as we continue listening and
learning at each of these hearings.”
– Representatives Jesse Topper, Jason
Ortitay, and Ryan Warner, the Republican
members of the Basic Education Funding
Commission. Read their full statement here.