Treading on Toxicity: The Science, History, & Implications of Philadelphia’s Lead Soil Contamination

Wagner Free Institute of Science
Feb 28, 2018 6:00pm - 7:30pm

Philadelphia has a lead problem but it isn’t in our drinking water—it’s in our dirt. Lead has been in Philadelphia soil for a while, stemming from the city’s long industrial history. Recently, however, a building boom has been churning up and spreading around soil containing hazardous levels of lead, which is a known neurotoxin with debilitating effects on children. How did lead get into our soil? How do we measure it? And, what role can scientists play in activism and social justice around lead contamination? West Chester University Geologist Cynthia Hall joins us for a Weeknights at the Wagner to share the history of lead contamination in Philadelphia, the data that she and her students have collected, and the wider implications of this grave problem in the city.

Dr. Cynthia Hall is an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences at West Chester University. She received her Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry from Howard University and Ph.D. in Geochemistry from Georgia Tech. Dr. Hall has worked extensively on studying lead contamination in Philadelphia soils and, along with her research assistants, is focusing on addressing both the scientific and environmental justice issues surrounding this national crisis. She also works alongside her husband to run Free Haven Farms, which is a small, homestead farm in South Jersey that distributes fresh, organically-grown produce to local residents and businesses.

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