In 1997, the prevalence of lead poisoning among children under the age of 6 living on Milwaukee’s near south side (Sixteenth Street’s service delivery area) was 32%. In 2014, this rate dropped to 6%. Amongst Sixteenth Street clients, the rate dropped even lower to less than 2%.
The Department focuses on three distinct but complementary lead poisoning prevention initiatives:
Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention
Since 1996, the Department has partnered with the WI Department of Health Services and the Milwaukee Health Department to develop and implement a one-of-a-kind, bilingual community lead outreach program that combines free home-based outreach and testing, education, and follow-up medical care for children with lead poisoning. Our staff goes directly out to the community to ensure that every family living on Milwaukee’s near south side is aware of the hazards related to deteriorating lead paint, specifically lead poisoning. We provide free testing for elevated blood lead levels to all children under the age of 6, who are especially susceptible to absorbing and retaining lead due to their small size and growing bodies. Lead poisoning, which is often undetected, can lead to:
- decreased bone and muscle growth
- poor muscle coordination
- damage to the nervous system, kidneys, and/or hearing
- speech and language problems
- development delays
- seizures and unconsciousness (in cases of extremely high lead levels)
Many of the houses in the area were built around 1900 using lead-based paint. Deteriorating paint chips and dust are the common source of lead poisoning for small children.
Lead Abatement Activities
Department staff teach homeowners, tenants and landlords how to identify lead paint hazards in their homes and explain the health risks associated with deteriorating lead paint. Staff also assist in developing maintenance plans to keep homes lead-safe, sharing abatement strategies, and identifying training opportunities and other resources to permanently remove lead hazards.
After maintenance plans are developed with families and property owners, Department staff follow up with them to ensure that the abatement strategy has been properly implemented. The training and follow-up teach families and property owners how to identify lead hazards and implement lead abatement strategies on their own.
Growing Healthy Soils for Healthy Communities
The growing interest in urban agriculture and backyard gardening has led to an innovative partnership amongst six organizations – the Department of Environmental Health, the Milwaukee Health Department, UW-Madison, the Medical College of Wisconsin, UW-Extension, and Walnut Way Conservation Corp. (a north side community organization) – to identify and address lead levels in residential gardens for healthier soils and home-grown vegetables. Growing Healthy Soils targets residential gardens on both the near north and near south sides of Milwaukee. The project offers:
- Environmental health literacy education
- Tests for and measures lead levels in garden soil
- Identifies interventions to reduce soil lead concentrations
1337 S. Cesar E. Chavez Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53204
Monday-Friday: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p. m.
Contact Kevin Engstrom at (414) 897-5598 for more information.