Get the Lead Out Thursday, Jun 11 2015 

Poverty, education, drugs, and family structure all play roles in the crime rates in cities such as Chicago. However, studies on children poisoned with lead may indicate the greatest factor of all. Brain scans of toddlers exposed to lead, even in small amounts, were found to have significantly less gray matter in parts of the brain that control attention, emotions, and impulses. Also, the production of white matter that transmits signals between different parts of the brain was scrambled.

According to a June 7, 2015 Chicago Tribune article by Michael Hawthorne, studies show that kids with higher levels of toxic metals in their systems not only struggle in school but also commit more violent crimes. This is particularly important information in consideration of the high crime rate in low-income areas where the potential for lead exposure is significantly greater due to the number of older buildings and vehicles there, as well as the expense of removing lead paint.

The former Chief of Lead Poisoning Prevention at the Chicago Department of Public Health, Anne Evans, compared the results of lead levels to the performance on standardized tests of more than 58,000 children born in Chicago from 1994 to 1998. Those exposed to the metal had a significantly higher failure rate in reading and math.

Harvard University researcher Robert Samson conducted a two-year study on education and crime in low-income areas of Chicago. When he added data from lead testing he was shocked to find the similarity between the rate of children younger than six in 1995 with lead poisoning and the rate of aggravated assault in 2013 when those kids were 17-22 years old. Other studies are finding similar results.

We’ve known for decades that lead in paint, gasoline, and pipes is dangerous to our health. But perhaps, like me, you didn’t understand exactly what that meant. Now we know that no child should ever be exposed to such a toxin.

©2015, Mary K Doyle

 

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All Children Are Our Children Tuesday, Jul 22 2014 

Just another day in the city. Children playing hop scotch,  walking home from school, sitting on their front porch with their grandmother, and sleeping in their beds when a bullet finds its way to them, taking their lives.

Shamiya Adams is yet another victim of gun violence in Chicago. It was 9:30 on a summer evening. The 11 year-old was at a sleep-over with her friends. The children were enjoying girl-talk and s’mores when a random bullet soared through a window zeroing into Shamiya’s head.

How can it be unsafe for a child to play with friends inside their home? If they aren’t safe there, then where?

Shamiya was one of at least 22 shooting victims in a 12 hour period this past weekend. No doubt Shamiya’s shooter was a teenager, a young person who’s now taken the life of another young person. When caught and tried, he will be confined to a prison with other criminals.

We never must be immune to the sobbing mothers seen weekly on the news, heartbroken over the loss of their children due to gun violence.  Our children cannot grow up thinking this is normal. Children shouldn’t witness or know, be related to, or be a victim of gun violence. They also should respect the lives and property of others and not spend their summer firing weapons as if in a video game.

A couple of years ago, the daily program, Chicago Windy Live, featured a special program on inner city violence. Father Michael Flagler, the beloved pastor of St. Sabina Church and an integral part of the community, said the problems are multi-layered. They can’t be solved with one change. Poverty, parenting, drug and alcohol abuse, education, employment opportunities, community involvement, and mentoring are issues that need to be addressed.

These children in the mix of all of this are not “that neighborhood’s” children, they are our children, our future. If you are able to help an inner city child or their family, please do so. We can change this situation and the future of our city one child at a time. At the very least, remember them in your prayers.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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