But we've never stopped using lead. The biggest source of new lead contamination is "general aviation" -- small planes use the most, such as at airports like Hillsboro airport, one of Oregon's busiest. It's owned and run by the Port of Portland. All over Oregon, small planes use leaded gasoline, which they then spray into the atmosphere with every flight. It's invisible, but potent.
In other words, Oregonians tax ourselves so that small plane pilots can use fuel that causes a horrifically damaging poison to get into our air, food, and water. It never goes away, and it winds up in our kids' bloodstream and causes irreversible brain damage.
There is NO SAFE LEVEL OF LEAD exposure. And when children are exposed, it changes their lives dramatically, for the worse: they are more likely to have problems with executive function (decision making, impulse control). In other words, children exposed to lead are the most likely to drop out, get arrested, get pregnant, and just generally do the costly, stupid things we say we want them to avoid. They can't help it -- we poisoned them, and they are impaired as a result.
And then there's all the lead that children are exposed to simply because lead is a persistent toxin just as it is, in the dust that's everywhere. It doesn't break down, it doesn't become fixed, it just sits there, waiting to be picked up on someone's shoe or blown into the air with other dust particles, and then onto your food or carpet. And in households where there was lead paint used, you can get regular exposure from older windows (most often) or, worse, from improper paint removal practices.
The research is clear and overwhelming. We spend far more money on the negative consequences of lead exposure than we would have to spend if we had a crash program to "Get the lead out of Oregon."
If you're a parent, particularly a low-income parent living in older housing (pre-1978), make sure you have your children and home tested for lead exposure. Give what you can to the Lead Safe America Foundation. And ask all your elected officials why it's OK for pilots to spray poison on unsuspecting children and families when there are lead-free alternatives out there.
The time for study is over. It's time to act. The damage we cause today costs us for decades. The savings we can realize today by investing in getting the lead out will pay us back even longer.