Photography lesson

Lesson of the day: “The long scourge of lead poisoning”

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Featured article: “The long scourge of lead poisoningby Ellen Gabler

The use of lead dates back to ancient Rome. But despite the fact that the dangers of lead exposure are well known today, lead poisoning continues to be an epidemic in the United States.

In this lesson, you will learn about several key moments in the history of lead usage. Next, you’ll study the data to see how people in the United States are still affected by lead exposure.

What do you know about lead? Have you heard the word used in reference to paint, crayons or building materials? Lead is a toxic metallic element. It is bluish white when freshly cut but quickly tarnishes to a dull gray.

Do you know the dangers of lead exposure? Children, who are more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults, often have no symptoms, but lead can still stunt physical and mental development. High levels of lead can damage organs and the nervous system.

Watch this four-minute video from UNICEF on the history of lead use. As you watch, answer these two questions:

The featured article uses 11 key vocabulary words. Do you recognize any of the words from the list below? Could you use any of them in a sentence?

1. flail
2. raise
3. persist
4. ship
5. durability
6. resistance
7. ban
8. Stress
9. Complaint
10. call
11. danger

1. How does lead exposure and poisoning affect young people today?

2. What were the causes of lead poisoning in Roman cities?

3. Why were artists like Rembrandt and Goya in danger?

4. When did people become more aware of the harms of lead paint? What actions have been taken internationally?

5. How has lead paint been approached in the United States historically? What about nowadays?

In the full article you just read, “How 2 Industries Stymied Justice for Young Lead Paint Victims,” ​​Ellen Gabler examines how housing and insurance companies avoided taking responsibility for exposing children lead.

Look at the two graphs below, which are taken from the article. They show how much lead appears in the blood of American children. After carefully reviewing the title, abstract, and each graphic in the article, answer the questions below.

  • What is your reaction to the two graphs?

  • How do the graphics relate to the article you are reading?

  • What do the graphs make you wonder?

Now find out how this issue affects your community. Explore this PolicyMap resource that allows you to examine the relative risk of lead exposure in the United States between 2015 and 2019.

  • What do you notice about the risk of lead exposure in your city?

  • How does it compare to neighboring towns? What could explain the differences?

  • Compare the risk rate in your state to another state or region. What do you notice ? Why do you think there are similarities or differences between states or regions?

If you’re concerned about lead in your community, you can learn more about common places where lead is found and what you can do about it in this guide from the Environmental Protection Agency.

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