By: Harrison McCroskey
East Chicago, Indiana is facing a serious problem because of toxic levels of lead, a dangerous element, in the soil. Some families in West Calumet Housing Complex are forced to mop their floors with bleach multiple times a day to keep the dirt containing lead, out of their homes. Eleven-hundred residents have a significant amount of lead in their blood, including 670 children. Living in this area is a serious health risk for children. Lead’s dangerous qualities are particularly dangerous for children, Lead poisoning may cause abdominal pain and cramping, aggressive behavior, anemia, constipation difficulty sleeping ,headaches and hearing loss.
“If I’d have known the dirt had lead, he wouldn’t have been out there playing in it,” said Stephanie King, a resident of West Calumet Housing Complex and mother of five children, said in an interview with The New York Times. She was not aware of the soil conditions in her home that affected her son, Josiah. The top six inches of soil in West Calmut has 30 times as much lead than is considered safe for children to play in.
A U.S. Lead Smelting Plant located just north of West Calmut is the main source of the lead.
West Calmut’s soil has been infected with lead for many years. The plant was designated a Superfund site, a fund established to finance a long-term, expensive project. Residents are confused as to why they were not told about this problem sooner.
The EPA’s response was that they had focused mainly on cleaning up the smelting plant and not on the surrounding neighborhoods; however, they claim that they have worked on this problem since 2008. The most toxic patches of land in West Calmut have been tested for lead. The EPA is using this data to determine the quantity of lead and what is the best course of action to take.
The U.S. government is trying to remove the top layer of dirt, but the situation has gotten worse as more people, mainly children, have gotten ill. It is being breathed in by these people. Lead is found in various products around homes: older paint, ceramics, pipes and plumbing materials, solders, batteries and cosmetics. Lead is not dangerous if it does not enter the body, but breathing or swallowing anything with a substantial amount of lead can cause lead poisoning.
“ Lead is a heavy metal. There is really not place for it to interact in the body, especially in large quantities. We probably get small amounts of lead through food. Too much of anything can kill you,” Mr. Hartman, a science teacher, said.