Lawsuit Claims Black Children Used to Research Lead Dust

Plaintiffs say the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore deceived them about joining a research study that exposed their children to high levels of lead.

Posted: 09/16/2011 11:44 AM EDT
Filed Under racism


A class action lawsuit was filed Thursday against a Baltimore medical institute accused of intentionally exposing Black children to lead poisoning for the purpose of studying the effectiveness of lead abatement.

According to the lawsuit, plaintiffs claim that during the 1990s, at the hand of the Kennedy Kreiger Institute, children were lured into living in lead-tainted housing and subjected to a research program which intentionally exposed them to lead poisoning in order to assess the effectiveness of certain lead abatement procedures. The lawsuit also claims that no form of treatment was incorporated into the study, nor did the institute ever intend to treat the children.

The study, which began in 1993, was intended to determine how varied levels of lead abatement, or removal, would affect the level of lead found in the blood of children living in homes with lead contamination. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to lead in early childhood can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, behavior and learning problems and slow growth among other symptoms.  

The Kennedy Krieger Institute, who works exclusively with children in its research, maintains that the lead abatement study was conducted in the “best interest” of the participants. However, the father of the lead plaintiff, David Armstrong Jr., says that after consenting to the study and living in the apartment suggested by the institute, his son’s blood lead levels rose to two and a half to three times higher than before moving into the apartment.

The plaintiffs say that the institute deceived them about the details of the study, convincing them to move into contaminated apartments and removing only a portion of the lead dust so that the level of the children’s blood lead levels could be evaluated over a two-year period.

“Baltimore city had the highest lead poisoning rates in the country, and more children were admitted to our hospital for lead poisoning than for any other condition,” Dr. Gary W. Goldstein, president and chief executive of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, said in a statement on Thursday according to the New York Times.

“With no state or federal laws to regulate housing and protect the children of Baltimore, a practical way to clean up lead needed to be found so that homes, communities and children could be safeguarded.

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