The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Poisoning Children Is Business as Usual

Nov 27, 2017

Detroit’s children have the highest rate of lead poisoning in the state of Michigan–8.8 percent of kids tested were found to have elevated lead levels in 2016. In one ZIP code, more than 22 percent of children had lead poisoning!

This level is up from 7.5 percent in 2015. Officials blame a higher rate of abandoned building demolition in that period for the rise. There was a much higher risk for kids who lived within 200 feet of a demolished building.

Lead paint was banned starting in 1978, so any homes built before then had lead paint in them. This lead paint deteriorates over time and gets in the air and soil, as well as flaking off and being ingested. In addition, Detroit has an estimated 125,000 lead service lines for water in the city, more than the rest of the state combined.

So–officials are in effect saying that there is nothing that can be done about lead getting into the environment when older buildings are demolished. That’s ridiculous! Of course there are ways to demolish a building while being very careful to contain any hazardous waste coming from the materials in the house–and you can bet that in more wealthy areas, careful steps are taken to contain those materials. But of course, those methods make demolition more expensive–apparently more expensive than the politicians are willing to pay. It’s more important for them to clear this land for development than it is to keep children safe!

And if the demolitions are making the rate spike right now, they are not what created the problem in the first place. The fundamental cause is that officials have let decades pass during which aging homes containing lead were allowed to fall into disrepair and ruin. Children living in these areas have experienced high rates of lead exposure for years.

City and state officials point to that very fact, that the problem has been longstanding, to explain why they won’t handle it quickly. State Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Angela Minicuci said that Detroit’s situation can’t be compared with Flint. “You can’t make an apples-to-apples comparison,” she said. In Flint, “there was this impact on health, but it was a man-made crisis versus [Detroit, where there are] historic issues of lead exposure in the environment as a whole–it could be paint, it could be in soil, it could be related to the industry.”

Maybe the poisoning in Detroit doesn’t have a specific cause like switching the water source, which is what happened in Flint–but the bigger cause is the same: Capitalism, and the push to make profits, whatever the consequences might be to the population. And aid didn’t come to Flint because the state and federal governments recognized a problem–no, they tried to deny the problem for two years, but the population of Flint fought and fought, and made the problem known, until officials couldn’t deny it any longer. That’s when they found the money to start addressing the problem.

Today they say they can’t find the money to save children’s lives in Detroit, because “Detroit is not like Flint.”

Well, it can be.