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Institute Sued Over Lead-Poisoning Study

A lawsuit accuses a Baltimore medical institute of exposing children to lead poisoning in the 1990s.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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FLICKR, EWEN ROBERTS

The Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, is facing a class-action lawsuit accusing it of knowingly exposing more than 100 young black children to lead poisoning in the 1990s during the course of a scientific study on lead abatement measures in homes with lead paint.

The children, aged 1 to 5 years, were living in supposedly “lead-safe” housing in poor neighborhoods of Baltimore, but according to the lawsuit were actually selected by the institute because of lingering lead dust problems. “What they would do was to improve the lead hazard from what it was but not improve it to code,” Thomas F. Yost Jr., one of the lawyers who filed the suit, told The New York Times. Though Kennedy Krieger employees periodically measured the lead levels of the children’s blood, the lawsuit contends that they did not offer any medical care to the children, some of...

“Children were enticed into living in lead-tainted housing and subjected to a research program which intentionally exposed them to lead poisoning in order for the extent of the contamination of these children’s blood to be used by scientific researchers to assess the success of lead paint or lead dust abatement measures,” the suit states. “Nothing about the research was designed to treat the subject children for lead poisoning.”

The institute denies the accusations, however, arguing that “Baltimore city had the highest lead poisoning rates in the country, and more children were admitted to our hospital for lead poisoning than for any other condition,” Kennedy Krieger Institute President and Chief Executive Gary W. Goldstein said in a statement. “[The] research was conducted in the best interest of all of the children enrolled.”

(Hat tip to The Chronicle of Higher Education.)

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