By Stephanie Stahl


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – There are renewed concerns about lead poisoning in Philadelphia after the closing of a park in Point Breeze because of high lead levels in the soil. Doctors say it’s a potential problem throughout the region.

Factories closed for decades have left the legacy of lead that is in the soil all over the Philadelphia region.

Some say lead poisoning among children is a public health crisis that everyone should be concerned about.

The Chew Playground in Point Breeze remains closed after soil samples showed elevated levels of lead.

But it’s not just an issue for the South Philadelphia neighborhood.

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“Childhood lead poisoning is a big concern in Philadelphia,” Dr. Kevin Osterhoudt, who’s the medical director of the Poison Control Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said.

Osterhoudt says all big old industrial cities like Philadelphia have lead problems mainly from paint, but it’s also in the soil throughout the region.

“Philadelphia is a great historic city,” Osterhoudt said, “but one of its toxic legacies is lead. We do have lead in our soil that has accumulated over hundreds of years.”

A map, which is a work in progress, shows soil lead concentrations around the region – part of an ongoing study by The Center for Excellent In Environmental Toxicology.

(Credit: CBS3)

With lead in the soil theoretically throughout the area, is it safe to allow children to play in playgrounds?

“It’s important to let children play and to use playgrounds,” Osterhoudt said, “but we can do things like when they come home with dirty shoes, leave shoes at front steps, when they come into the house and before they have a cookie or a snack or eat dinner, have them wash their hands.”

Lead poisoning impacts developing brains and can cause a variety of health problems for children.

“It can make it harder to learn, harder to control impulses, harder to pay attention,” Osterhoudt said. “All of those things can make it harder to succeed at school.”

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Concerned Point Breeze parents were updated by city officials Wednesday night during a community meeting.

The health department tracks lead in children and says they found no spike for those living in the South Philly neighborhood.

“The rate, or the proportion of children, living with elevated lead levels in this area was half what it was across the city,” Dr. Carolina Johnson said.

Johnson, Philadelphia’s deputy health commissioner, says all children should be tested for lead.

It’s of special concern for families who live in older homes where there is lead paint.

Stephanie Stahl