Speakers Discuss Fighting Lead and Mosquitoes in Philly

Larry Schofer, for the Shuttle

Get the lead out! Remember: Lead can be defeated!

And, along with that, you can fight mosquitoes in your neighborhood!

These were the two messages delivered by speakers from the Clean Water Fund and the Gorgas-Mower Neighborhood Association at a public meeting sponsored by Northwest Village Network held last month at Lovett Library.

Greg Ely is program manager for the Philadelphia Lead Hazard Awareness Program of the Clean Water Fund. He pointed out that lead is in every Philadelphia neighborhood, in the layers of paint in most houses built before 1960. It exists in home plumbing; it’s around windows; it’s in dust; it’s in the soil; it even still exists in toys made in certain foreign countries. The particular danger to children lies in eating paint chips, which have a slight sweet taste.

Greg talked about seven simple things one can do today to reduce or eliminate lead in the home: 

  • Take off your shoes at the door.
  • Ban smoking from your home.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Run your water tap to flush out water that has been sitting in your pipes unused for a number of hours.
  • Cover paint peeling at child height. 
  • Eat healthy snacks.
  • Allow only toys made in the USA, Canada or Europe after 1990.

There are various tests available for finding sources of lead. In particular, check your house for paint that is peeling, flaking, or worn, and check your plumbing. Even though water distribution pipes in the city are good, the service line from the water main to your house might contain lead.

Remember that there is no safe level of lead in the body, and high exposure in particular can lead to severe physical ailments.

In the second half of the program, Maurice Sampson, who has been involved with environmental issues for decades, talked about his neighborhood’s experience with reducing mosquito infestations. 

Water treated with BTI, a mosquito control product that is available in hardware stores in solid form and at a reasonable cost, makes mosquito larvae unable to reproduce. Using BTI “mosquito dunks” in standing water has proved quite effective if neighbors cooperate. Mosquitoes have a relatively short geographical range, so a group of neighbors can eradicate mosquitoes in their neighborhood by working together to eliminate standing water except for water containing mosquito dunks. (Mosquito dunks are sold at Weavers Way.)

Using material from environmental writer Mike McGrath, Maurice related how the Gorgas-Mower Neighborhood Association was able to create a mosquito-free environment for several months last summer.

Northwest Village Network is a neighborhood organization devoted to aging in place. It regularly sponsors public educational programs as well providing other benefits for its members. More information is available at northwestvillagenetwork.org or at nvnphilly@gmail.com.