Living With Lead

A special edition of South Side Weekly

This project won the 2017 “Best in-depth Reporting in a Community Newspaper” Peter Lisagor Award from the Chicago Headline Club

Lead | Photo Essay

The Fight for East Chicago

Lead contamination in an Indiana city

Lorenzo "Bambam" Jenkins, 12, his two-year-old niece Laylay Striblin, and his friend Keanthony Brown, 14, spend time at a park near the West Calumet Housing Complex. Jenkins says he's upset that he has to move but that he'll keep up with his friends like Brown if they are able to stay at the same school.

The West Calumet Housing Complex is home to nearly 1,200 people, located on a seventy nine-acre site in East Chicago, Indiana, which the Environmental Protection Agency has declared hazardous to human health. Up until 1985 a lead refinery, a copper smelter, and a secondary lead smelter were also in the area, and as early as 1987, federal and state agencies investigated the site as a potential cleanup priority. But due to limited resources and an abundance of red tape, the site has remained contaminated for decades.

Health | Lead

Keeping Kids On Track

Illinois considers giving lead-poisoned children access to its successful Early Intervention program

Nicole Hamp is a pediatrician who says Illinois's Early Intervention program can help families maximize a lead-affected child's development. (Will Camargo)

When Saeri Geller’s son was fifteen months old, she caught him eating paint chips in their home in Grand Crossing. A visit to the doctor confirmed her fears: Ian had dangerously high blood lead levels.

Lead | Parks

Paths to Contamination

How lead can enter the body, in private homes and in public parks

Christopher Brown

Lead, a soft and naturally occurring metal, is one of the best-studied toxic substances known to humans—it is especially harmful to the brain, kidneys, bone marrow, and other body systems of young children. Childhood lead poisoning has been dramatically reduced over the past few decades, as lead has been phased out from gasoline, food and beverage cans, house paint, and other common sources. In 1978, there were about 14.8 million poisoned children in the United States; by the early 1990s, that number had declined to 890,000 children. In Chicago, the rates of elevated blood levels in children have decreased from one in four to fewer than one in one hundred children tested.

Lead | Politics

Ground Zero

Why lead pipes in Chicago have the nation’s experts worried

Jean Cochrane

Wearing glasses and a heavy green sweater, Patrick MacRoy kneels down in the sweltering basement of his yellow brick Andersonville condominium and presses a key against the metal pipe. As he begins scratching it, silver filings shave off the pipe and fall onto the floor. That’s how MacRoy, the former director of the city’s Lead Poison Prevention Program, knows that the pipe (known as a service line) that brings drinking water from the city’s water main into his twenty-four-unit building is made out of lead, a toxic metal long known to cause cognitive and physical impairments in children.