Why are volunteers with LEAD OUT NOW! Chicago, a project of the Chicago branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, hitting the streets to build a mass campaign against the poisoning of Chicago?
This past April it was revealed that levels of lead were detected in nearly 70 percent of Chicago homes tested in the past two years. This is alarming as any concentration of lead can be detrimental to health — particularly to the brain development of young children. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that in the U.S. half a million children ages 1 to 5 years old have lead levels in their blood higher than 5 micrograms per deciliter, which is the level at which the CDC recommends public health interventions be initiated.
This is especially disheartening as exposure to lead in many cases can be eliminated and prevented. Chicago has more lead service lines than any other city with over 400,000 of such contaminated lines connecting water mains to homes. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel not only refuses to use city funds to remove lead lines but instead claims that it is the duty of homeowners to remove lead from the public water provided to them by the city. Unsurprising — and disturbing — these lead lines disproportionately affect neighborhoods comprised of poor and oppressed working-class families. Filters needed to eliminate lead from all the water in a home can cost around $1,100, meaning that the majority of households being poisoned cannot afford to protect their families. More facts on lead in Chicago water can be found here.
Despite these vicious attacks carried out against us, we are and will continue to fight back. Summer weather facilitates beach days and fun at festivals for many Chicagoans, and ANSWER Chicago volunteers have been using the nice weather as an opportunity to combat the Emanuel administration through weekly outreach sessions to promote the recently launched “LEAD OUT NOW!” campaign. Each weekend since the campaign’s launch, volunteers have been listening to and educating Chicago residents about lead poisoning and have been collecting thousands of signatures to put pressure on the Emanuel administration to remove the lead piping.
Several Chicagoans were shocked that Chicago water is contaminated with lead and many people were both disgusted and flabbergasted by the mayor’s refusal to remove the lines. The city can propose a $2.5 billion bid for Amazon’s second headquarters and has found $95 million to build a cop academy for the murderous Chicago Police Department. Yet, at the same time, the city claims to not have resources available for schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, housing and removal of lead service lines. That is an unabashed lie and blatantly criminal. As outreach volunteer Oliver Elliot stated, “By refusing to replace the lead piping, Rahm Emanuel is waging chemical war against the poor. By refusing to provide clean drinking water to its citizens, the city of Chicago is leaving hard working people to choke.”
One’s wealth is arguably the greatest predictor of one’s health — a direct consequence of living in a capitalist society which cruelly steals resources from workers to benefit the ruling class. This is exemplified in Chicago, a multinational working-class city in which the mayor and Chicago elite violently assault poor, oppressed communities and plague these communities’ living environments with violence, neglect and toxic chemicals. In impoverished Chicago neighborhoods — primarily comprised of Black and brown people — residents face terrorism by police, loss of family due to mass incarceration, disenfranchisement by the education system through mass school closings and poisoning through city-provided water and walls covered in lead paint.
Though the ruling elite’s power may seem overwhelming and omnipotent, each assault these criminals commit against our class will be met with organized resistance and people power. To support and sign the LEAD OUT NOW! petition, follow the campaign here.