The Spark

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

Prostituting for the landlords:
John Hopkins Hospital

Oct 8, 2001

Two Baltimore families are suing Johns Hopkins Hospital for allowing their children to be used as guinea pigs in an experiment over lead paint.

It has been known for 50 years that children who ingest or inhale even tiny amounts of lead from flaking paint, can experience serious brain damage resulting in learning disabilities, hearing loss, violent behavior and mental retardation. In the 1950's, a Hopkins pediatrician – concerned that a significantpercentage of children living in slums surrounding Hopkins Hospital, suffered from lead poisoning – pioneered in this disease. His research found that children were being exposed to the toxin commonly found in old paint at levels six times higher than industrial workers. It became obvious that houses contaminated with lead paint were at the source of the problem. This doctor remarked, “As long as we have old houses, we're going to see the problem.”

Yet in 1993-94 the same Johns Hopkins Hospital, one of the world's most renowned hospitals, gave its approval to conduct an experiment, allowing 100 families with young children in normal health and without elevated levels of lead in their bloodstream, to live in contaminated homes with varying degrees of lead abatement. They intended to measure at what point a child would get lead poisoning. Their purpose was to find a way to deal with lead without going to the trouble of removing it.

The researchers kept the families ignorant about the effect of exposure to lead dust on their children. In other words, doctors and scientists, knowing full-well how dangerous the contaminated homes were, agreed to do the experiment.

Who benefitted from the experiment? Certainly not the children. One family suing wasn't told about the "hot spots" of lead dust in their home until close to a year after it was discovered. By that time, their 9-month-old baby's lead level had become highly elevated. Currently the child is in elementary school, with significant learning disabilities... And this is just one example.

The only benefitting group are slumlords and landlords who don't want to spend the money to thoroughly clean up their houses. The laws in Maryland calling on landlords to fix up their properties are full of loopholes: Landlords are not required to fix up all their property; the government promises big subsidies to landlords; and enforcement is a joke. Proof: Lead poisoning, effecting an estimated 8,000 children in Baltimore, continues to be an epidemic.

The researchers didn't act like doctors – experts who supposedly care about the health of children. Rather, they acted like prostitutes for the big-money real estate interests.