Report finds much shorter life expectancy, higher potential for lead poisoning for many Wyandotte County residents

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A new report finds life expectancy is as much as 20 years shorter in some parts of Wyandotte County compared to others. The report also shows that nearly half of homes in the county hold the potential for lead poisoning.

Fourteen-month-old Samuel Kami is fighting a cold. He also faces a much bigger health problem. Through an interpreter, his mother, Harka, said Samuel seemed different from her older children.

"This baby was not very playful, not very happy, like not smiling a lot," said Kami.

He had blood testing this fall that revealed high levels of lead. That can impede brain development.

The Kamis rent an apartment in an older Kansas City, Kansas building. The new report done by Ohio State University finds nearly half of county residences hold the potential for lead poisoning from paint. The homes have low assessed value and were built before 1978 when lead paint was banned. Most are east of I-635.

"When we saw the numbers, we were really quite stunned," said Jerry Jones, executive director of the Community Health Council of Wyandotte County. The study was commissioned by the council and REACH Healthcare Foundation.

"Because there's no real programs in place to test the homes for lead, people just don't -- they don't really know," said Jones.

And he said there is no local or state program to screen children.

The report also finds a poor life expectancy in many central Kansas City, Kansas neighborhoods. It's just 49 to 62 years compared to 71 to 81 years in neighborhoods west of I-635.

"There's a correlation between the economics and the health outcomes," said Jones.

And the report shows 35 to 40 percent of those living in the neighborhoods of greatest concern are children.

"And I think that should cause an alarm for all of us across political spectrums," he said.

The full report, named H.E.A.T for Health Equity Action Transformation, will be available to the public at WeAreWyandotte.com starting on Tuesday, November 29.