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‘It’s troubling:’ Battle brews between City of Milwaukee, paint industry over lead concerns

MILWAUKEE -- Lead poisoning in our children -- is it mostly due to lead in the water in Milwaukee -- or lead in the paint on older homes? That question comes as a battle is brewing between the City of Milwaukee and the paint industry.

The neighborhood near 18th and Brown in Milwaukee is one of the areas that has the highest amount of lead found in children, but it does not have the most lead pipes.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said during a news conference on Monday, April 9 that means lead in the paint of older homes is to blame. He said he has been aware of the paint industry now focusing on Milwaukee's lead in the water as a way to avoid the blame for lead poisoning as lawsuits against the paint industry continue.

"It's troubling to me that lawyers defending the lead paint industry appear to be using public concern about lead and water to confuse the public and the courts, because when we look at the facts and the evidence, their narrative doesn't hold up," Barrett said.

The mayor said Aldermanic District 14 on the city's south side has the highest amount of lead in children. He believes paint is the main issue.

Experts for the paint industry have said they are simply gathering information at this point -- about lead in the water.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a stop work order on lead abatement in Milwaukee that was being funded by a federal grant.  The city used the federal money to hire contractors to replace windows -- often the source of the highest concentrations of lead. That left property owners responsible for removing any other lead sources themselves.