Mississippi Today: Director of National Sea Grant Law Center Discusses Lead Exposure Risk in Mississippi Delta

“How many Mississippi kids are poisoned by lead? Massive undercounts, inconsistent testing provides officials few answers”

By Erica Hensley/Mississippi Today

GREENWOOD — Mayor Carolyn McAdams has no way of knowing how big a problem lead exposure among children in her city is.

The devastating effects of lead exposure in children are as bad here in Greenwood, according to limited data available, as anywhere in the state: Three percent of children tested in Leflore County from 2012 to 2017 showed high lead levels — well above the state average and one of the highest in the state.

“Nobody’s ever said, ‘Leflore County is high in lead-based paint poisoning,’ and to me that’s everything,” McAdams said. “(State officials) know these statistics and they know these problems, but they’re not getting the information to the people that need the information.”


Stephanie Showalter-Otts, director of National Sea Grant Law Center at the University of Mississippi, conducted research on lead-in-water problems in the Mississippi Delta, which ultimately led to a new partnership with the state health department to test families’ water for lead. She says part of the problem is the cycle of low testing, which keeps the issue of targeted lead prevention off the table.

“From the very beginning, families aren’t getting information they need … and there’s a lot of misinformation about actual risk factors and how many kids in Mississippi are impacted,” she said. “My biggest concern is that because our testing rates are so low, we really just don’t know how many kids might have elevated blood lead levels, and therefore we don’t know the full extent of the problem.”

Read the full article here.