Mfume Calls Lead Paint Poisoning “The Silent Epidemic”

On July 17th, Kweisi Mfume, President & CEO, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, (NAACP)called on the federal government and the lead paint industry to take the actions necessary to end lead paint poisoning of children, calling it a civil rights issue that affects children of all races, ethnic backgrounds and income levels

Mfume said: “This is an entirely preventable disease. We call on this president and this Congress to take federal action by withholding monies to states that are not complying and following through on basic requirements under the Medicaid Bill and the Medicaid funding that they get. Our actions are not just against the industry but also against states that are violating and have violated federal policy and cities that are violating state policy.”

Ruth Ann Norton, Executive Director, of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, said: “Lead is a neurotoxin that damages the reading and reasoning ability of children. Children who are poisoned by lead are seven times more likely to drop out of school but they also have a preponderance to be more violent, to have Attention Deficit Disorder, to have hearing loss and therefore they have a handicap of being able to compete fairly. “

Mfume added, “We are prepared to litigate as long as it might take against the lead paint industry to bring about real and lasting judicial remedies to this problem. The industry has known for a long time the negative aspects of lead based paint. The industry has to have some liability and some conscious.”

Mfume said he will write to President George W. Bush next week to discuss lead paint, as well as other issues affecting the social justice, health justice and criminal justice of African American and other communities of color and Caucasians who are affected by the same circumstances. Mfume also said he will reach out to the Children’s Defense Fund and other advocacy groups to build a coalition to address a crisis he called an “American problem.”

Norton added, “If we want to level the playing field for all children, we must do what we can do and prevent childhood lead poisoning. We are delighted that the NAACP has provided national leadership on this issue.”

Mfume said some lead paint companies have contacted the NAACP requesting an opportunity to discuss the lead paint issue. Mfume did not announce a date for the filing of a class action lawsuit but said he would invite cities to join the NAACP in this litigation.

“This is not just an advocacy issue on behalf of the NAACP, but these are really people, children and their families that are affected. Lead paint companies ought to be knocking on doors saying ‘What can we do about this?’ But instead, their silence is deafening.” added Mfume.

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