York County, city officials to talk about childhood lead exposure and behavior issues

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Row homes are shown in York City, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

York County and York City officials will participate in a virtual news conference this week to discuss the prominence of lead exposure in the city and surrounding areas.

The discussion at 11 a.m. Thursday will highlight how childhood lead exposure can lead to behavior issues and problems with impulse control, which could increase the possibility of an individual committing crimes in the future.

“There are a whole bunch of compelling studies that demonstrate this link,” said Bruce Clash, state director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. “That’s why law enforcement is coming out now to say this is a problem and we need to get lead out of homes.”

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids is an organization of 245 state law enforcement officials who advocate for public investments in children and families in order to prevent crime. Clash will be participating in the discussion.

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The warnings about how lead exposure can increase the likelihood of criminal behavior  come as York City sees a surge in shootings.

There have been 39 shootings so far in the city this year, with the city breaking records in the first two quarters.

There have been seven homicides, tying the record number of deaths by shootings seen in the first half of the year in 2018.

Lead exposure: In York City, the largest driver of  exposure is older homes that have lead paint, according to the state Health Department. While the use of lead paint was banned in 1978, a majority of homes in York City were built before that year.

“York has a large percentage of housing that’s more than 40 years old,” Clash said. “And the problem disproportionally affects Black children and Hispanic children.”

Of the approximately 18,000 structures in the city, 70% are identified as residential housing. And 84% of those were built before 1978, city officials have said.

York County has the ninth highest rate of childhood lead poisoning in the state, according to http://paleadfree.org/. More than 200 children are poisoned each year.

In addition, Black children in York County are four times more likely than white children to be poisoned. Hispanic children are three times more likely, according to the organization.

A state Health Department report last year found that 3.9% of children born in 2016 and tested up until the age of 2 years old in York County had confirmed elevated blood-lead levels.

Data for York City was unavailable.

But the county numbers are  above those seen in Flint, Michigan, which discovered that a 2014 switch in the water supply had introduced lead into the city's drinking water.

In 2017, 3% of children younger than 6  — the metric used in that state — had elevated blood-lead levels in Flint, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Those wishing to register for Thursday's virtual discussion can do so at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_PfCLwZxdQgizgTVvKu6icA.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.