Some help with the challenges of tracking down lead data

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on social determinants of health and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on resources and tip sheets at determinants@healthjournalism.org.

Lead contamination continues to make headlines more than a year after the Flint municipal lead crisis in Michigan hit the national news. The public outcry over the government’s response to dealing with the Detroit suburb’s lead-contaminated water spurred reporters across the country to revisit lead issues for their audiences.

The problem goes beyond lead-tainted pipes that were contamination source in Flint. Reporters in Philadelphia recently found evidence even higher levels of contamination in their city in which old paint containing lead was the culprit. In Cleveland, the school system has taken a closer look its contamination problems.

Tracking down meaningful data for these reporting projects can be challenging given the patchwork of national, state and local regulations. After the Flint situation had hit the news, other municipalities decided to conduct tests. National news organizations such as USA Today also have sought to track down data.

For reporters trying to tackle lead stories in their community, gathering information can be tough, according to Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner, the authors of “Lead Wars: The Politics of Science and the Fate of America’s Children.” The two New York-based public health historians discussed the issue in November during an AHCJ webcast.

Now a new AHCJ tip sheet provides resources to find data on lead levels and related information. If you have found any other useful sources, share them with us at determinants@healthjournalism.org.

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