Warning Residents of Lead Dangers
Door-to-door workers allied with Hunger Task Force teach Amani residents about possible problems.
The pair speak with residents about the dangers of lead and how to prevent poisoning. Their goal is to knock on every door in their neighborhood — about 5,200 homes.
Ashley and Harper are canvassers for the Milwaukee Nutrition & Lead Task Force, which was formed by Hunger Task Force (HTF), and is working with the Amani neighborhood’s Dominican Center to provide lead education.
HTF Advocacy Campaign Manager Matt Stienstra said the door-to-door canvassing stood out among the various lead education techniques the group used last summer, such as trainings and distributing information at community events.
“We realized pretty early on that going door-to-door and having these conversations was incredibly beneficial, and so we wanted to be able to do it in a more intentional way this summer,” Stienstra said.
He added that HTF is partnering with the Dominican Center because it is essential to conduct the campaign with culturally competent staff. HTF wanted to work with an organization that was already established and respected in the Amani community.
“The canvassers that work for this project both live right in the area, both within a few blocks of the Dominican Center. These are their neighbors that they are talking to; this is their community. These are problems that they’re facing,” Stienstra said.
Ashley, Harper, Stienstra and Earn & Learn students from Employ Milwaukee began canvassing on June 11 and will end on Sept. 30. With a month behind them, Stienstra said the team members are having more conversations than they had expected.
They originally predicted they would talk to five to six families a day, but they are actually reaching eight to 10 families a day.
“The conversations are taking longer than I thought, but in a really good way,” Stienstra added. “It’s because families have questions and they want to talk about this.”
“(The residents) are just happy that we come by in the neighborhood,” Harper said. “The longer we talk to them, the more they know. I’m happy [about] that.”
At the start of summer, the task force mailed a survey to all Amani residents. The survey poses questions related to lead education such as “Circle four good sources of Vitamin C.” Key nutrients to help prevent absorption of lead are Vitamin C, iron and calcium.
Richard Diaz, the Amani community organizer at the Dominican Center, said though some of the survey’s questions seem simple, people don’t know this kind of general information about lead.
Diaz said the task force plans to send out the same survey at the end of July and again at the end of September to measure how effective the door-to-door technique is.
If a resident mails the survey back, she or he is entered for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card. Canvassers draw two winners a week.
Every morning, the task force members set out from the Dominican Center about 10:30 a.m. At the door, canvassers tell residents about the three main sources of lead in homes: paint, water and soil. They also teach them how to identify the presence of lead, what to do and what not to do.
Ashley said people in Amani generally know not to drink the tap water, but the conversation about tap water often is based on rumors.
Before being hired as a canvasser, Ashley said she vaguely knew about the lead crisis from the ‘90s. Now, she realizes some of the misconceptions she once held. “I remember (the crisis), but it’s like, ‘Oh that’s paint; no one said anything about the water,’” she said.
Canvassers also teach residents what to eat to help protect their bodies from lead. They let them know that an empty stomach increases the rate of lead absorption.
If no one answers the door, they leave an informational flier about water filters as well as a door hanger that points to information online.
Before the project began, the canvassers underwent a weeklong session of classroom training, which emphasized that they should direct families to appropriate resources.
“If people have questions that are medical…none of us are doctors,” Stienstra said. “We’re going to make sure that we point [them] to the nearest WIC (Women, Infants and Children) clinic or make sure we talk to them about how to get in touch with a pediatrician.”
Stienstra said conversations usually take 10 or more minutes. “Our goal is to have high-quality conversations with folks.”
HTF Executive Director Sherrie Tussler said she hopes the task force can learn from the project and replicate it in other neighborhoods.
“If I can just get through one ear, I’m proud of that,” Harper added. “One ear opens one mouth, then it goes to another one, then it goes to another one, then everybody’s aware almost. That’s why we’re out here.”
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on eighteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.
More about the Lead Crisis
- City Hall: Proposal Uses Lead Abatement Funds for Marketing - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 7th, 2019
- Op Ed: Everyone Deserves Clean Water - State Sen. Jon Erpenbach - Nov 4th, 2019
- Residents Rally for Clean Drinking Water - Princess Safiya Byers - Nov 1st, 2019
- Baldwin Pushes for Action on Lead Poisoning - Isiah Holmes - Oct 30th, 2019
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Urges CMS to Increase Childhood Lead Screenings - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Oct 28th, 2019
- Senator Taylor Continues To Bring Attention to High Levels of Lead and its Connection to Violence - State Sen. Lena Taylor - Oct 22nd, 2019
- Sen. Taylor Calls for Focus on Violence Prevention - State Sen. Lena Taylor - Oct 21st, 2019
- Lead Exposure Linked to Gun Violence - Corri Hess - Oct 21st, 2019
- Evers Pushes Action on Water Quality - Shamane Mills - Oct 20th, 2019
- Study Finds Link Between Childhood Exposure to Lead and Firearm Violence - University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee - Oct 18th, 2019
- EPA Proposes Updates to Rules Impacting Lead and Copper in Drinking Water - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Oct 11th, 2019
- Milwaukee awarded $5.6 million HUD grant to protect children and families from lead hazards in the home - City of Milwaukee Health Department - Oct 1st, 2019
- City Hall: Feds Award $5.6 Million for Lead Abatement - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 1st, 2019
- DHS Lead Abatement Program Receives Federal Approval - Wisconsin Department of Health Services - Sep 12th, 2019
- MKE County: Committee Approves Loans for Lead Laterals - Isiah Holmes - Sep 10th, 2019
- Supervisor Weishan Demands Action to Replace Lead Laterals - Sup. John F. Weishan, Jr. - Sep 5th, 2019
- Evers Wants State Health “Lead Czar” - Erik Gunn - Jul 30th, 2019
- Gov. Evers takes action to protect children from lead exposure - Wisconsin Conservation Voters - Jul 29th, 2019
- Gov. Evers Signs Executive Order 36 Relating to Measures to Abate and Prevent Lead Exposure in Drinking Water - Gov. Tony Evers - Jul 29th, 2019
- City Hall: Outside Firm Auditing City’s Lead Program - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 29th, 2019
- Clean Drinking Water Effort Falls Short - Isiah Holmes - Jul 24th, 2019
- The State of Politics: New DNR Head Has Agenda of Change - Steven Walters - Jul 22nd, 2019
- City Hall: 1,893 Lead Service Lines Replaced - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 17th, 2019
- City Hall: Council Protects Tenants Seeking Lead Hazard Remedies - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 11th, 2019
- Council approves ordinance protecting tenants in lead-exposure investigations - Ald. Jose Perez - Jul 10th, 2019
- City Hall: Board of Health Appointments Sail Through - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 27th, 2019
- Rep. Robyn Vining Condemns Removal of Lead Service Line Replacement from Budget - State Rep. Robyn Vining - May 15th, 2019
- City Hall: Who Can Get a Free Lead Filter? - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 25th, 2019
- Chisholm Confirms Health Department Probe - Edgar Mendez - Apr 24th, 2019
- Freshwater For Life Action Coalition (FLAC) & Get The Lead Out Coalition (GTLO) Support Letter To Milwaukee County District Attorney By Milwaukee Alderpersons - Freshwater For Life Action Coalition - Apr 23rd, 2019
- City Hall: DA Asked To Consider Charging City Officials - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 22nd, 2019
- Report Urges Action on Schools’ Drinking Water - Danielle Kaeding - Apr 12th, 2019
- A House Divided: Comments from State Rep Show the Current Chasm in Wisconsin - Ald. Michael Murphy - Apr 10th, 2019
- A statement from Alderman Terry L. Witkowski following the March 22 special Public Safety and Health Committee meeting - Ald. Terry Witkowski - Mar 22nd, 2019
- City Hall: FLAC, Get the Lead Out Fight City Over Lead Posioning - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 22nd, 2019
- Special meeting devoted to lead in water issues will feature city departments - Ald. Bob Donovan - Mar 20th, 2019
- City Hall: Council Approves Civilian Health Oversight Board - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 5th, 2019
- Marquette University to host Flint water crisis author Anna Clark - Marquette University - Jan 18th, 2019
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- Forum Examines Lead Poisoning Prevention - Abby Ng - Nov 30th, 2018
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- League of Women Voters – Nov. 17 Public Program Addressing Lead Issues: A Milwaukee Focus - League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County - Nov 5th, 2018
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- City Hall: Baker To Testify Before Common Council - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 14th, 2018
- Warning Residents of Lead Dangers - Jenny Whidden - Jul 18th, 2018
- Governor Walker Administration Awards More Than $26 Million for Lead Service Line Replacement in 42 Wisconsin Communities - Gov. Scott Walker - Jul 18th, 2018
- Environmental Review of City of Milwaukee Project for the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program (SDWLP) - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Jul 9th, 2018
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- Legislation mandates lead water lines replacement at child care facilities - Ald. Milele Coggs - Apr 26th, 2018
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- Chief of Staff Comment on FLAC - Patrick Curley - Mar 22nd, 2018
- Evers Demands Action on Wisconsin’s Drinking Water Crisis - Gov. Tony Evers - Mar 21st, 2018
- Op Ed: How City Should Solve Lead in Water - Noelle Chesley, Anne Dressel, John Berges, and Helen Meier - Mar 2nd, 2018
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- Governor Walker Signs Leading on Lead Act into Law - Gov. Scott Walker - Feb 21st, 2018
- City Hall: Mayor Allows Interim Health Leader - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 15th, 2018
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- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Appoints McManus Interim Health Leader - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 6th, 2018
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- Tainted Water: State’s Failures On Lead Pipes - Cara Lombardo and Dee J. Hall - Jan 15th, 2017
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