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Augustana College Tackles Scott Co. Lead Paint Problem


Augustana College is partnering with Scott County to tackle a public health problem. Each year, 50 children in Scott County test positive for lead in their blood.

Over the next year, Augustana students and faculty will identify areas in Scott County with the highest risk of lead paint exposure and introduce solutions to prevent poisoning. 

Provost Pareena Lawrence says students and professors from several classes will apply what they're learning to the project.

"A public health problem like lead paint isn't to be solved by just chemists or biologists," Lawrence says. "It's a social problem, too. We need sociologists, we need anthropologists, we need environmental studies students and public health students."

She says multiple areas of study are needed to reach creative solutions.

At low to moderate levels, lead can cause learning, hearing, and behavioral problems in children, along with slower growth, lower IQ, anemia and kidney problems. At higher levels, lead can lead to brain swelling, convulsions and death.

Scott County Public Health Director Edward Rivers says any amount of lead in a child's blood is unsafe.

"Poisoning from lead paint is unique as a public health problem because it can be eliminated. Lead paint's no longer being produced or used and once lead is remediated from a structure, then it's safe for children and others," Rivers says. "However, there are still several residences in Scott County that have lead paint in them."

Children are often exposed to lead when paint crumbles and chips off windows and woodwork. Based on age alone, the county says at least 17,000 homes probably have lead paint. Augustana students will do a broader analysis to identify as many high risk homes as possible. Then they'll research solutions based on biology, sociology and environmental studies.

This project is the second annual for the Upper Mississippi Center for Sustainable Communities at Augustana. Director Michael Reisner says everyone involved benefits. 

"This generation of students, they want to make a difference right now. They really don't want to wait until they graduate," Reisner says. "This is a chance to do it."

Over the summer, the partners will size up Scott County's lead paint problem and ask local agencies to help solve it.