History Of The Lead Safe Omaha Coalition
The task of reducing lead exposure is complex and multifaceted. It requires broad and diverse representation from city, county and state government, public and private health agencies, neighborhood associations, neighborhood health clinics, private consultants, and environmental groups and others.
The LSOC was created as a non-profit community-based group of concerned citizens, parents, grandparents, child-care providers, local and federal agencies all working together to end childhood lead poisoning among children 6 years of age and younger in the Omaha/Douglas County area.
The initial focus of the LSOC consisted of the eastern edge of the city that lies along the Missouri River bank and west approximately four miles. The neighborhoods within this area consist of nine zip codes: 68102, 68104, 68110, 68111, 68112, 68131, 68105, 68107 and 68108. The residents of these zip codes are predominantly African Americans and Latinos. However, the LSOC has now broadened their scope to include the Omaha/Douglas area focusing particularly on all children under the age of six and pregnant women.
In 1999, Dr. Reynolds, of the Omaha Chapter of the NAACP and Eric Burgin, President of District 2 Neighborhood Association reguested Councilman Frank Brown of the Omaha City Council to sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to request an environmental investigation regarding lead poisoning contamination. They also requested the EPA's assistance in helping Omaha form a coalition to address childhood lead poisoning in North and South Omaha ( the two inner city communities within Douglas County ). Through the efforts of many, the Lead Safe Omaha Coalition became a reality.
During the last several years, this group of concerned citizens, parents, health and envirnomental professions known as the Lead Safe Omaha Coalition ( LSOC ) have been meeting to develop strategies to address the problem of exposure to lead and the health problems assosicated with lead exposure.
One of the primary goals of the LSOC is to reduce lead exposure by children six (6) years of age and younger by 20% within the next three (3) years. In order to accomplish this goal, the LSOC has been focusing their energy around the following six (6) task forces:
- Education and Outreach
- Identify resources in maintaining and building the Coalition
- Data Collection and Usage
- Identify and obtain Lead Abatement sources ( primary prevention-housing )
- Affecting Laws and Public Policy
- Medical and Clinical Awareness
The early Lead Safe Omaha Coalition primary constituents were:
- Charles Drew Health Center
- Douglas County Health Department
- Environmental Protection Agency - Region VII
- Indian Chicano Health Center
- Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
- Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services
- Omaha City Council
- Omaha Housing Authority
- Sierra Club
- Spring Lake Neighborhood Association
- Various Individual Members
- U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- University of Nebraska Medical Center, Department of Pediatrics
Data clearly indicates that the lead problem is usually concentrated within low income and non-white communities of Douglas County. The Lead Safe Omaha Coalition formed as a community-based group realizes and recognizes that whenever environment issues are concentrated within low-income minority communities, the issue of environmental injustice and racism arises.
Historically mainstream environmental groups have been criticized for their lack of interest in environmental issues impacting people of color. One of the methods used to solidify this philosophy was to prohibit people of color, or low social-economic standing to take leadership roles and participate in environmental groups. In an effort to reduce this problem, LSOC elected an Executive Committee consisting of people from the affected communities thereby taking on leadership roles and being actively involved in the elimination of environmental ineqalities within Omaha/Douglas County.
In accordance with the mission of the Lead Safe Omaha Coalition, members of the Coalition began to establish priorities. The priorities identified were:
- Identify and obtain resources to provide administrative and other support for the work of the Coalition.
- Organize the Coalition into smaller working task forces to address the many facets of reduction to lead exposure.
- Develop a strategic plan that would include overall goals and specific objectives for the work to be done by the various task forces.