(Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress)
(Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress)

City Lab staff writer Laura Bliss writes on the politics surrounding lead poisoning in the United States. Nearly 9,000 children in Flint, Mich. have been exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water, not to mention the scores of other children across the country who have been exposed to lead paint poisoning. In this brief history of lead paint in America, Bliss dives into what American politics’ long history with lead paint has meant for lead paint regulations today.

Over the past century, tens of millions of children have been poisoned by lead, mainly by its presence in old household paint. And many more will be, thanks to the hundreds of tons of lead paint that remains on the walls of houses, apartment buildings, and workplaces across the United States, decades after a federal ban. Many of the most vulnerable are children living in poor neighborhoods of color. Flint’s tragedy is shedding light on a health issue that’s been lurking in U.S. households for what seems like forever. But that demands the question: Why has lead poisoning never really been treated like what it is—the longest-lasting childhood health epidemic in U.S. history?
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