OMNIA Podcast: Reducing Lead Exposure (Audio)

A Penn Arts and Sciences grant allows faculty and students to work with impacted communities in Pennsylvania to decrease lead exposure.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Recorded and Edited by Alex Schein

Interviews by Susan Ahlborn

Narrated by Amber Grier 


Professors Reto Gieré and Richard Pepino from
the Department of Earth and Environmental Science. 

Concerns over lead poisoning were heightened in the U.S. after the contamination of a city water supply in Flint, Michigan. In Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania, rates of lead exposure in children are high—especially in low-income communities. Thanks to a Making a Difference in Diverse Communities grant from Penn Arts and Sciences, a team of researchers and students led by Reto Gieré and Richard Pepino of Earth and Environmental Science is educating local communities about the dangers of lead poisoning, collecting important data necessary to inform remediation efforts, and working with the city and other partners to reduce lead exposure and address environmental justice issues. 

In this OMNIA podcast we speak with Reto Gieré, Professor and Chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Science, and Richard Pepino, Deputy Director of Community Outreach and Engagement Core for the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET) in the Perelman School of Medicine. They discuss the project and offer their insights on the risks of lead exposure in Philadelphia and possible remediation efforts to reduce these risks. We also speak with Tabeen Hosain, C'17, a philosophy, politics and economics major, who is leading a team of students collecting data on lead levels in soil. They're also working with community organizations and schools to host Soil Kitchens, which let individuals test their soil and learn more about risks and best practices dealing with potential lead poisoning. An important part of the project is allowing undergraduate and graduate students to work with Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships to share collected data on lead levels with the impacted communities and educate and inform individuals about their risks and rights

The Reducing Lead Exposure project is a collaboration between the Department of Earth and Environmental Science in Penn Arts and Sciences and the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET) in the Perelman School of Medicine. Along with Reto Gieré and Richard Pepino, faculty leaders include: Trevor Penning, Molinoff Professor of Pharmacology and Biochemistry and Biophysics; Ira Harkavy, Director, Netter Center for Community Partnerships; Marilyn Howarth, Adjunct Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Pharmacology; and Howard Neukrug, Practice Professor of Earth and Environmental Science.

(Left to right) Tabeen Hosain, C’17, works with community members in West Philadelphia to test soil using an XRF analyzer; the Philadelphia neighborhood of Kensington was home to a number of lead smelter factories whose products linger in the soil—click here to see enlarged map showing former lead processing facilities (provided by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry); Professor Richard Pepino (right) with Jack Kelly from the Environmental Protection Agency, Region 3 (Philadelphia) during lead training seminar for community leaders.