on April 12, GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students hosted a lunch called leadership is important. It was a celebratory gathering in a sun-drenched banquet room at the Loudermilk Conference Center. We have honored MP Katie Dempsey for their visionary legislation on behalf of Georgia’s children and celebrated retired GEEARS partners, Pam Tatum, the CEO of Quality Care for Children, and Joe Perreault of the Professional Family Child Care Alliance of Georgia.
The heart of the event was a dazzling conversation between the CEO of GEEARS, Stefanie Blank and DR. Mona Hanna-Attishawho became famous seven years ago for exposing the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
You wouldn’t believe that a discussion about government indifference and the devastating effects of lead poisoning could also be inspirational and entertaining. But in the hands of Stephanie and “Dr. Mona,” it really was.
dr Mona spoke with the matter-of-factness of a pediatrician who has long grappled with the terror of lead. She told us about the callous decisions of 20th Century American businessmen and policy makers, leading to the predominance of lead in paint and plumbing. She explained that powdered particles of old lead paint can collect in the cracks and corners of old houses where babies crawl. She told us about the profound and incurable brain damage that can result from lead poisoning and how the youngest and smallest children are most vulnerable. And she surprised no one by observing that lead is a bigger problem in impoverished black and brown communities than in affluent white ones.
But she also encouraged us to turn our despair into action. We can do a lot.
First, we must encourage the governor Kemp Sign HB 1355 into law – a bill sponsored by Rep. Dempsey that will result in more effective lead testing, mitigation and mitigation. To reduce the risk of lead, HB 1355 would update Georgia’s law to align with CDC guidelines, which define elevated blood lead levels and the standard that triggers public health intervention. It would help in the early detection of children with elevated blood lead levels to reduce damage and prevent further exposure. Finally, it would protect children under the age of six from exposure to lead in rented housing, schools and childcare. GEEARS worked with partners during the legislature to lobby for the passage of this important piece of legislation, and the governor has until May 14 to sign itth so that it becomes law.
You can add your voice to this advocacy group by typing contact the governor before the invoice expires.
You can also encourage any Georgia public school to partner Clean water for Georgian children to test the school’s drinking and cooking faucets for lead. This is an innovative organization that hopes to cover every base in the state (or, rather, every faucet) by empowering citizen scientists to test their water and mitigate lead levels with point-of-use filters.
Finally, you can educate yourself by studying Dr. Read Mona’s book about her journey as a medical activist. What the eyes don’t see.
At GEEARS, we have always taken a holistic approach to advocacy. Education can only be successful when children – and their families and communities – are healthy. When it comes to this issue, health can only be achieved if we act together and act urgently to remove the lead from our children’s homes, their schools and their sippy cups of water.