Art Into Action | Drawing Awareness to Childhood Lead Poisoning in Wisconsin
May 19 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Join us for Art Into Action | Drawing Awareness to Childhood Lead Poisoning in Wisconsin, with artist Mel Chin, a longtime activist for lead poisoning prevention, along with Wisconsin-based experts in lead poisoning, pediatrics, environmental health, and community advocacy. This free event is available on Facebook Live @MMoCAMadison. You don’t need a Facebook account to join this event.
In what has been referred to as a “silent epidemic,” approximately 500,000 children under age 6 have elevated blood lead levels in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Wisconsin alone, more than 200,000 children were diagnosed as lead poisoned between 1996 and 2016, according to the state Department of Health Services.
Sources of toxic levels of lead include drinking water delivered through lead pipes, lead paint, and lead dust in older homes. The problem disproportionately affects lower income communities and neighborhoods, where residents often live in older homes and rental properties that haven’t been well maintained, which may contain lead-based paint–banned from use in 1978. Lead poisoning can cause long-lasting and irreversible effects on learning, development, and behavior in small children.
The Art Into Action panel aims to educate the community about the sources of the problem, how to prevent childhood lead poisoning, and where to find resources and assistance. Panelists include:
- Mel Chin, a North Carolina-based conceptual visual artist whose passion for social and environmental causes is highlighted in his body of work. Chin has spent decades raising awareness about lead poisoning, which he learned about during a visit to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. In 2008, Chin initiated his nationwide art activation, the Fundred Project (on view at MMoCA now), aimed at prompting political action and increased government funding to help resolve the problem.
- Marjorie Coons: Program Director for the Wisconsin Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program in the Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health, Wisconsin Division of Public Health.
- Shy McElroy: a community organizer for the Coalition on Lead Emergency (COLE) in Milwaukee and the parent of a lead-affected child.
- Moderator Caroline Griffith, a Ph.D. Candidate in Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Public Humanities Fellow at Midwest Environmental Advocates.
- Dr. Beth Neary, co-president of Wisconsin Environmental Health Network and a Clinical Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. She is the Wisconsin representative for the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU), Region 5.
To learn more about lead exposure in Wisconsin, read Wisconsin misses chances to cut risk of lead exposure in drinking water.
You can also take a look at “Living with Lead: Milwaukee’s Lead Crisis.” In 2021, the percentage of children tested with elevated blood lead levels in Milwaukee was nearly double the state average. This story map includes public health data and interviews with city residents to better understand the crisis.
The Art Into Action panel is co-sponsored by Midwest Environmental Advocates and the Wisconsin Environmental Health Network. Additional funding is provided by the Wisconsin Humanities Council.