A Recent History of Lead Advocacy in Cleveland

Recent History of Lead Advocacy in Cleveland and Ohio

Former Mayor Michael R. White in the early 1990s  faced pressure to act after testing revealed dangerous levels of lead in the blood of 86 percent of kids tested in Glenville, the neighborhood he’d represented. In 1993 Mayor White convened a summit at the Cleveland Convention Center that included 200 participants, including a panel of 45 national, state and local experts. [  ] Despite initial enthusiasm, over the next ten years projects that emerged from the summit either stalled or expired.

Mayor Jane Campbell, elected in 2001, also vowed to reduce the scourge. In 2004, Campbell announced that public and private agencies would join forces to eliminate childhood lead poisoning in 10 years. "We want to become a national model," Campbell said. The effort included plans to screen more children, enforce lead abatement laws and train more workers to remediate aging housing stock. It would be aided by a $1.6 million grant from the Saint Luke’s Foundation that would re-energize work of the Greater Cleveland Lead Advisory Council.

In 2005 Cleveland enacted a Lead Safe Housing registry. No one ever registered.'

In 2006, the city’s health director and chair of the city’s public-private lead advisory council, Matt Carroll, acknowledged that neither of the city’s goals could be met. The work was stymied in part by federal cuts to lead prevention and remediation programs and by federal grants lost because of mismanagement and slow progress. See Someone Else's Problem PHOTO of child testing at lakeview

2006 Efforts to hold Sherwin Williams liable.

In 2016,  Cleveland Branch of the Federal Reserve bank held a symposium on childhood lead poisoning

2015-2018 Rachel Dissell and Brie Zeltner initiate the Toxic Neglect Series of articles. Some key examples:

2016 Toledo enacts Lead Safe Ordinance. City Club presentation on lead safety. Cleveland Lead Safe Network founded.

2017 Councilman Jeff Johnson introduces a lead safe ordinance at Cleveland City Council. The legislation never got a hearing.

2018  Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing formed to create a citizen ballot initiative for lead safe certificate. As a result, Cleveland City Council adopts Cleveland Lead Safe Certificate Program in 2019.

In 2021, Governor DeWine released a Lead Task Force Final Report. Three years after Dewine's State of the State message. the commission focused on child well being, but never mentioned lead poisoning. 

In May 2023, Ohio Department of Health adopted a new definition of lead poisoning called "elevated blood lead" Under ODH guidance, EBL is to be treated with outreach and education of parents during normal working hours. No inspections until a child's EBL reaches 10 mg/dl.  Wait! that was same the standard that Ohio used BEFORE the CDC standard issued in 2021.  A person who works in "the system" observed that the decision to make a change that was no change was "driven by economic considerations."

More History of Lead Advocacy

The "modern" history of lead advocacy in Cleveland is pretty well documented by Rachel Dissell and Brie Daniels. See Sources. Cleveland Lead Safe Network and our successor organization CLASH are direct descendants of Rachel and Brie. CLASH put lead poisoning back on the public agenda, but seven years later, the fundamentals have not changed: housing is still full of lead and children continue to be poisoned. 

There were a remarkable number of civic/philanthropic attempts before LSCC (see lead and amnesia)

Addressing Lead poisoning in Cleveland

Presenters: Spencer Wells, Darrick Wade

(george questions are in red

Overview of lead poisoning. 

History of lead work in Cleveland

1987-2007: Rehab at Lakeview; Demetrius illness; claims against CMHA.

1996-1998; The HELP Coalition: National efforts to address lead poisoning as a public health problem based on a medical model. secondary vs. primary prevention, the origins of the expression "children as lead detectors"

2004 -- Cleveland enacts lead safe registry. No one ever registered.

2009--Ohio law suit against Sherwin Williams dropped. https://www.cleveland.com/business/2009/02/ohio_drops_leadpaint_lawsuit_a.html

2015-2017: Changing the problem into an issue

2016-2018. Cleveland Lead Safe Network: A power analysis. Testing a theory of change: good government/consensus building. . It would be great to hear your perspective on how you have worked tobring about change in Cleveland. strategy that gained traction

2018-2019: The emergence of CLASH as a political force

Shifting from citizen advocacy to political activism. 

Triggering reaction from the oligarchy.


2020-2023: Implementation and broadening the “community”.

2024-2025: Possible next steps

More legislation?

More collaboration

Another generation of leaders and activists

George notes: 

 If possible, it would be good to get your sense of what has and has not occurred in Cleveland since the

2021 video. If there are any articles you strongly recommend regarding CLE between 2021-2023, I can make sure students have a look at them.

Student questions

Why has it taken so long for people to act?

Why such persistent neglect of this issue?

Has CLASH received any push back for our advocacy

How does CLASH members manage to sustain themselves in a long struggle