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Home » The Hidden Danger of Lead in Soil: Yvette Cabrera (Transcript)

The Hidden Danger of Lead in Soil: Yvette Cabrera (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of investigative journalist Yvette Cabrera’s talk titled “The Hidden Danger of Lead in Soil” at TED Talks 2024 conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


The Hidden Threat of Lead Contamination

I bet you’ve heard about our problem with lead contamination. Here in the US, we began phasing out one of the largest sources of lead in gasoline in the mid-1970s. But for decades, our vehicles had spewed this toxic exhaust into the atmosphere. So where did that residual lead go?

I’m an investigative reporter, and almost a decade ago, when I began digging into this issue, I realized there’s a huge misconception about lead. We talk about it like the problem was solved decades ago, but it’s still happening right now. Lead contamination isn’t just a problem in the water of Flint, Michigan. It’s in the soil, too. And not just in Flint, but around the world and almost certainly where you live.

Today, we know that no level of lead is safe in children’s bodies, yet lead is detected in the blood of all children. Most people associate lead with water and paint. What they don’t realize is that this invisible poison could be in the very soil where their children are playing.

The Case of Santa Ana, California

Take Santa Ana, California, a city of more than 300,000 people. In the 1960s, the tiny Mexican-American barrio of Logan was one of the poorest neighborhoods in Santa Ana. Squeezed between two railroad tracks, next to a highway and surrounded by all sorts of industry. It had also been a segregated neighborhood.

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