Get the lead out!

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Some people cannot run fast. They look about the same whether standing still or running. They’re so slow they can’t even catch a stopped bus. The only thing they probably can catch is a cold.

In sports, a slow runner hears it over and over again: “Get the lead out of your feet!” or your butt, or your bloomers.

Consider Cecil Fielder, the slowest major league baseball player ever to clog up the base paths. He played from 1985 to 1998 and even won a World Series with the Yankees in ’96. He was one of the best power-hitters of all time, but after 13 years and 1,470 games he had managed to rack up only 2 stolen bases, an unmatched record for slow running.

The point is, if you don’t get the lead out, you will be doomed to go slow. But you can’t get the lead out if you don’t know what it is – if you can’t spot it when it’s right under your nose.

So, here’s what lead it. It is a heavy, gray metal, so soft you can scratch it with your fingernail and cut it with a penknife. Lead is a chemical element once used in plumbing, still used in car batteries, and indispensable in Swarovski’s sparkling and brilliant, lead crystal glass.

But most of all, lead is a poison. And strangely enough, lead poisoning has a terrible slowing effect. In its worst forms – as a contaminant dissolved in drinking water or as sweet-tasting paint chips in old houses – it can slow the growth of a child’s brain in a way she or he may never recover from.

This week, The Jamestown Gazette brings you a new voice in the fight against lead poisoning in its many forms. Our guest contributor is Lisa Schmidtfredrick Miller, a specialist on lead poisoning and prevention in Chautauqua County.

Some historians believe that the water system of ancient Rome – a lead pipe delivery system – may have contributed to the empire’s decline and eventual collapse by poisoning generation after generation of its children. True then as now, in small children, especially from birth through three years of age with brains just developing, lead poisoning causes loss of IQ, aggressive behavior, memory difficulties, attention deficits, lessened concentration, poor fine motor control, difficulty planning, lack of impulse control, poor cognitive flexibility and poor problem solving.

Unfortunately, getting the lead out must be job-1 for the Greater Jamestown region where more than 90 percent of the housing stock is old enough to have lead paint on their interior walls. Lead was used nearly everywhere before its dangers were known. Chips of old, flaking lead paint are sweet to the taste and sometimes irresistible to unwatched children.

Jamestown’s water is not contaminated with lead, but with so many contaminated homes, the job of clean-up is critical.

The good news is that while lead poisoning is dangerous in 100 percent of cases where it happens, it is also 100 percent preventable.

Please accept Lisa’s invitation to learn more about this hazard, and specially to join in the work to save our children from this danger left over from the years before it was known and understood.

Let’s all get the lead out and speed up the work that needs to be done.

Enjoy the read.
Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.