After visiting with our local doctors and a former Tulsa Children's Medical Center pediatrician it became more evident of the great need we have in Ottawa County to do more to prevent our children from becoming lead poisoned.
Lead poisoning is worse for the youngest and can affect multiple areas of the brain, from I.Q. to emotional control including all aspects of mental health. Lead will affect you, it is not always easy to measure exactly how.
The basic fact is that lead is a poison. Lead is very heavy and it will be in our environment a long time. Once ingested it can be stored in your bones and will continue to do damage over a long period of time. The affects are predictable and will affect every brain exposed to it. After you see injury, it is hard to help. This means prevention is the best answer and we need to do something now and not wait.
There is an association in the literature connecting exposure to lead to Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. ADHD can be explained as the lack of ability to pay attention and exhibit control. Dr. Ed Gustavson explained that a child with ADHD feels bombarded and that affects the ability to learn even if the child has a high I.Q.
Though there is an abundant number of older homes with lead based paint, much of our lead comes from the local, cheap resource, chat or mine tailings used as gravel and sand throughout Ottawa County in home building, alleys, roads and on playgrounds and school yards. EPA funded residential yard cleanup is still being carried out by Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality to remove lead contaminated soil from residential yards.
We were relieved this week to learn the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt stated, “I want you to know that with the White House and also with Congress, I am communicating a message that the Brownfields program, the Superfund program, water infrastructure … are essential to protect,” Pruitt said. He stated, “Some of the places have been on the Superfund list for 30 years or more. And that shouldn’t be.”
EPA’s Superfund program has been around since 1980, and is responsible for managing the cleanup of some of the country’s most contaminated hazardous waste sites, as well as responding to significant environmental emergencies. There are more than 1,300 Superfund sites around the country, and most past cleanups have been paid for by the parties responsible for polluting.
Our Tar Creek Superfund site is one of those 30+ year sites he is speaking up for. This could give us hope the future could ensure more of a lead-free county than we have now. But in the meantime, for the years it will take to remove the lead from our local environment, we have a job to do.
Want to do your part? Learn how during the four hour Lay Health Advisory Training on March 23. We can do this, each one of us can do more to lower lead levels in the children around us. Training is from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Northeast Tribal Health System Community Room. Call LEAD Agency 918-542-9399 to register for the free training.
What else can you do? After listening to Grace Goodeagle's tips on her recent experience lobbying our representatives at the state capitol: Take data, organize, seek each legislator and engage them on the issues. Study up and reach out to all of our representatives and senators, federal and state. Let them know this site needs to be cleaned up to protect the long term public health and the environment of Ottawa County and all for all our friends downstream. In the meantime, we will concentrate on the prevention education brings.
Dr. Ed Gustavson exclaimed our lead exposure is a silent pandemic and can be lowering the IQ of our whole country. Though many may have been silent here on these issues, there are indications, they will not remain that way much longer. Lead poisoning can be found nationwide, Dr. Shirley Chesnut noted but in a solution oriented community like this, we can help change this.
Our children are worth it.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim