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Opinion | Lead Paint and the Poisoning of Children

To the Editor:

Re “Two Industries Stymie Justice for Lead Paint’s Young Victims” (front page, March 30):

In 1786 Benjamin Franklin wrote to a friend about lead, “You will observe with Concern how long a useful Truth may be known, and exist, before it is generally receiv’d and practis’d on.”

Thanks to The New York Times for raising awareness about childhood lead paint poisoning and the challenges historically to holding the insurance and real estate industries liable.

Childhood lead poisoning is one of the few causes of social and learning problems we know how to solve. But if action is not taken, the current rate of childhood lead poisoning means that millions of children will be unnecessarily poisoned in the decades to come.

The human costs of this disease are devastating, including education and criminal justice costs and the long-term economic costs to society of lost productivity and opportunity for today’s at-risk children — tomorrow’s future.

Time to hold industry responsible. And time for government to allocate sufficient funding to end a preventable disease affecting our most vulnerable citizens — our children.

Anita Weinberg
The writer is a clinical professor of law and social justice, Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

To the Editor:

How has my family’s exposure to lead paint affected our lives? Did it lead to my being tossed out of elementary school and my lifelong struggle with A.D.D.? While my wife and I had the lead pipes replaced before moving into our home 55 years ago, the two of us stripped most of the lead paint from its interior while our two sons were infants. What effect did this have on the four of us?

What can I do about this? The obvious answer is to pressure elected officials to pass legislation that prevents insurance companies from shielding themselves from liability in lead-poisoning cases and to prohibit building owners and real estate brokers from selling and renting properties that haven’t proven to be lead-free.

John Casson

To the Editor:

Thank you for drawing attention to the continuing catastrophe of lead poisoning. If Black kids’ lives really mattered, and of course they do, we as a society would spend the money to abate the lead-based paint in all the housing built before 1978.

We know that this is the source of most of the poisoning, yet we allow the housing to be rented and re-rented to one family after another, poisoning one child after another. It would be far less expensive (and much more humane) to abate the lead than to pay the medical, educational and other costs of the poisoning.

Private and public landlords and insurance companies are at fault, but the solution lies not with them but with public action. A civilized society does not allow its children to be poisoned.

Florence Wagman Roisman
The writer is a professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

To the Editor:

Re “In Scathing Speech, Zelensky Chastises U.N. for Inaction” (front page, April 6):

Russian soldiers are committing atrocities in real time, documented by eyewitnesses, satellite, video and still photos for all the world to see. Whether or not Vladimir Putin and his military commanders gave specific orders to kill civilians, they bear responsibility under the Geneva Convention.

Will the U.N. continue to debate toothless resolutions that Russia vetoes? Will the E.U. and NATO continue to denounce war crimes while providing only “defensive” weapons to Ukraine and allowing Mr. Putin’s threats to set the limits of their response? Will European countries continue to express distaste over Russia’s atrocities while funding its war with their fuel purchases?

This is a rare clarifying moment for the West, with an unambiguous distinction between democracy and autocracy, sovereignty and subjugation, humanity and genocide. Will Europe and America rise to the challenge of the times and defend their often stated values, or will values give way to cynical realpolitik? The world is watching.

To the Editor:

Re “A Shift in Russia as Many Now Rally to Putin’s Side” (front page, April 2):

Your report on an increase in support of the Ukraine war and approval of Vladimir Putin among the Russian populace is based on data from a Levada poll. In interpreting the data I recalled something that the chess champion Garry Kasparov said in a 2010 lecture at Colgate University about Mr. Putin’s then resurgent popularity: Imagine being a citizen of Russia, getting a telephone call from an anonymous source during a time of increased turbulence and repression, and being asked what you think of your oppressor. How would you answer?

Polls are unreliable enough in more open societies, so what do you expect in an authoritarian society? Don’t believe everything you read.

Anthony D. Pellegrini
Bloomington, Minn.

To the Editor:

Re “New Mexico Offers Tuition-Free College to Residents” (news article, April 1):

Why it’s City College of New York all over again! My grandmother said never to throw out any old clothes — they’d come back in style, she was sure.

Philip L. Bereano
The writer is professor emeritus of technology and public policy at the University of Washington.

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