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Milwaukee's lead poisoned kids tripled years before problems surfaced

Posted: 4:39 PM, Nov 29, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-29 22:39:05Z

MILWAUKEE -- New information out of City Hall-- five years before problems surfaced in Milwaukee's lead program, the number of lead poisoned children tripled in Milwaukee.

The number tripled due to updated Centers for Disease Control (CDC) standards- not as a result of greater exposure in the City.

In 2012 the CDC dropped the amount of lead in a child's blood from 10 micrograms to 5 micrograms, meaning children with smaller amounts of lead in their blood would need treatment.

The information came out Thursday during a hearing at City Hall. 

"When the CDC threshold change, you tripled the amount of children that would then be considered lead poisoned and I'm not sure the political leadership, elected officials, fully understood that," said Paul Biedrzycki, the former Milwaukee Director of Disease Control and Environmental Health.

Biedrzycki had the lead program under his watch in that role. He appeared at a hearing for a former employee Thursday. Rich Gaeta, who oversaw a Federal Housing and Urban Development grant for the lead program, was fired earlier this year among investigations into the program.

His termination was based on several issues, including violating lawful and reasonable regulation. He is challenging his termination during the hearing this week.

Biedrzycki, called as a witness by Gaeta's attorney, answered questions about the program. He told commissioners he believe the lead program had a "stellar" reputation at the state and federal level during his time, citing awards won by the program.

He retired one month before the Lead program received it's first fail letter from HUD.