Philadelphia has a lead problem. Philadelphia’s old housing stock is what gives it much of its charm yet poses the greatest risk for lead. 92 percent of current Philadelphia housing units were built before 1978, which means that lead continues to be present in the majority of homes in the City, especially in neighborhoods struggling to keep up with maintenance.
Research has shown that any interaction between humans and lead is harmful, particularly for children under the age of six. The measurement of lead, the exploration of how children are exposed to it, the subsequent outcomes, and the analysis of how government responds to issues of lead, is interdisciplinary and multi-jurisdictional, covering the natural and medical sciences, governance, and planning.
The Community Outreach and Engagement Core is extremely pleased to announce that Richard Pepino, along with a working group of interdisciplinary faculty; Reto Giere (CEET researcher and Department Chair Earth and Environmental Science), Vincent Reina (PennDesign), and Eugenia C. South (Emergency Medicine) have been awarded a new grant from The Penn Fels Policy Research Initiative to continue addressing lead and urban development, particularly in Philadelphia.
The University of Pennsylvania encourages faculty and students to apply their research expertise to explore innovative ways to address societal challenges. Our COEC deputy director, Richard Pepino, lives this philosophy through his impactful Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) courses in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. His work has also established relationships with community, government, and advocacy groups.
Over the summer, a grant initiative titled “Making a Difference in Diverse Communities,” from Penn Arts and Sciences provided funding to support addressing challenges in environmental health inequality. In this initiative, students and faculty worked with key stakeholders in municipal, state, and federal government, local schools and community groups to leverage current efforts to eliminate environmental lead exposure through community-based education.
The initiative found success through the collection of important data necessary to educate communities and city partners about the dangers of lead poisoning to improve remediation efforts, reduce lead exposure and address environmental justice issues. This success is evident through multiple media publications, focus groups, panel discussions, community soil sampling workshops and the strengthening of partnerships around lead toxicity. The initiative highlighted lead’s silent war on public health. As such, it is imperative that Philadelphia continues to make strides towards the eradication of lead exposure.
The proposed collaboration will bring these researchers and their departments together to analyze existing research and current municipal practices They will identify potential risk reduction strategies and develop new projects. The scholars engaged in this collaborative already work with the City’s Departments of Health, Water and Licensing & Inspections, which provides a unique opportunity for policy development.
Congratulations again to our deputy and working group partners. We look forward to the collaborative production of a research report that will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal and the submission of an application for external funding for further work with the City of Philadelphia.