City should address peeling lead-based paint in Southwest Side viaducts

Lead is bad news for the healthy development of children, and lead-poisoning cases are most common on the South and West sides.

SHARE City should address peeling lead-based paint in Southwest Side viaducts
Peeling lead paint in a viaduct at 65th Street and Central Park Avenue, a dividing line between Chicago Lawn and West Lawn on the city’s Southwest Side,

Peeling lead paint in a viaduct at 65th Street and Central Park Avenue, a dividing line between Chicago Lawn and West Lawn on the Southwest Side,

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

City health officials say toxic levels of lead found in the peeling paint in the ceilings of five Southwest Side viaducts are not much of a hazard to the children who walk through them on a daily basis.

Most lead poisoning cases involving children stem from flaking paint in homes where they spend hours on end, a health department spokesman told Sun-Times reporter Brett Chase. who wrote about the discovery of the dangerous levels of the metal in the walkways beneath the CSX Transportation-owned rail tracks.

That may be true.

But given that lead is bad news for the healthy development of children and lead-poisoning cases are most common on the South and West sides, it would be prudent for the city to keep tabs on and officially test the viaducts that run along Central Park Avenue from 63rd to 67th streets.

Editorial

Editorial

Or at least help clean them up, which is what Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd) has asked.

Tabares found out about the lead three years ago when sixth-graders at Eberhart Elementary School concluded a project on the viaducts with the encouragement and assistance of their teacher, Alejandra Frausto.

The children, through Tabares, had hoped to meet with Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady so they could express their concerns. The meeting never happened. Neither did any city-based testing by the Chicago Department of Transportation, Chase found.

CDOT and CSX officials have agreed to speak with Tabares in the near future. When that discussion does take place, Tabares should bring along Frausto and her former students who worked on the 2019 school study.

Frausto, now a doctoral student at Northwestern University, did additional tests on the lead paint in the viaducts last year and shared the results with Tabares. Frausto is the expert and her apprehension is legitimate, environmental specialists and others agreed.

Anyone walking under the viaducts is bringing remnants of the lead on their shoes, strollers or elsewhere into their homes, pointed out Dr. Helen Binns, director of the lead evaluation program at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

Opinion Newsletter

Opinion This Week

A weekly overview of opinions, analysis and commentary on issues affecting Chicago, Illinois and our nation by outside contributors, Sun-Times readers and the CST Editorial Board.

The city’s health department has certainly made a difference in it efforts to eliminate lead exposure to children: In the 1990s, one in four children tested had elevated lead levels. Today, that figure is less than one in 100.

It wouldn’t hurt for the health and transportation departments to look over what residents found, publicly address their uneasiness and fix the viaducts to eliminate those feelings of being unsafe.

Want to write a letter to the editor or an op-ed? Check out our guidelines.

The Latest
Police identified the shooting suspect as Robert “Bobby” Crimo III, a 22-year-old who remained on the loose for more than eight hours after the attack in the affluent suburb’s downtown area.
When government refuses to act, it betrays the ideals we celebrate on the Fourth.
The strike also is delaying road resurfacing around Chicago and projects including the Interstate 55 and Weber Road interchange and the Interstate 80 bridge in Joliet.
MLB
Home runs and sacrifice bunts are down. So are strikeouts, but that is almost entirely because of the National League using the DH.
Flanked by a T-shirt in his stall that read “Stars & Stripes & Reproductive Rights,” Hendriks has spoken passionately in support of the LGBTQ community and came out strongly against the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.