A lawsuit filed on September 15, 2011 alleges that the Kennedy Krieger Institute, a Baltimore research facility associated with Johns Hopkins University that cares for disabled children, exposed multiple children to lead poisoning during a study of lead paint conducted by the Institute in the 1990s. The class action suit alleges negligence, battery, fraud, and violations of Maryland’s consumer protection act. The number of children, many of whom would now be adults, who may be involved in the suit is not yet known.
The study, conducted from 1993 to 1999, looked for a cost-effective method to abate lead in children’s blood levels. Part of the study involved moving families into subsidized homes with varying levels of treatment to reduce exposure to lead paint and dust. Some homes had full removal of lead paint, and some had other remedial measures. The families included children ages 12 months to 5 years. Researchers would collect dust and water samples from the houses and blood samples from the residents over a 2-year period to compare the effectiveness of different methods at reducing lead exposure.
The lawsuit alleges that children received dangerous levels of exposure to lead in paint and dust in the houses used in the study. Researchers from the Institute allegedly assured the families that the homes were “lead safe,” and did not specifically disclose the potential dangers of lead exposure. The lawsuit further alleges that the Institute did not provide any medical treatment to participating children. Some children reportedly suffer permanent neurological injuries because of the exposure, lack of warning, and lack of treatment.
This lawsuit is only the latest in a larger legal battle related to this study. Another lawsuit reached the Maryland Court of Appeals in 2001, when the court drew a comparison between this study and the Tuskegee experiments of the early- to mid-20th century. The Tuskegee experiment deliberately withheld treatment for syphilis from African-American men who participated in the study, leading to considerable suffering and preventable deaths. The Institute still disputes this comparison.