Lead in Philadelphia

Lead removal and remediation is a key plank of the Philadelphia Green New Deal. For those of you who weren’t informed, Philadelphia has a giant lead problem - it’s in our schools, our rivers, and our tap water. Those of you who live in gentrifying neighbourhoods aren’t immune either - breakneck construction has caused lead-poisoned soil to resurface in Fishtown and Kensington, causing poisoning amongst residents.

Lead poisoning can be lethal. Even in non-fatal cases, lead poisoning can cause developmental delays, abdominal pain, neurologic changes, and irritability. Even the vanishingly small chance that you’ve not been exposed to lead doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve not been affected. There is evidence that the sudden drop in crime in the early 1990s - at exactly the tipping point when most politicians expected crime to go up and up and up - is related to the Clean Air Act’s removal of lead from gasoline and hence the atmosphere nearly twenty years before. As a new cohort of children hit adolescence, they were behaving in less anti-social ways, and ultimately committing less crime.

How do we fix it? Philadelphia’s done some things, but arguably not enough. It’s enforced a new law to prevent childhood lead poisoning before it begins, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is trying to eliminate lead from public schools from the proceeds of a proposed tax on natural gas extraction. But these plans aren’t ambitious enough.

The Philadelphia Green New Deal is coming from a place that says: we can tackle lead poisoning and climate change and Philadelphia’s murderous inequality, all at the same time. We say, you can retrofit Philly’s city buildings and houses and schools to keep children safe and more energy efficient. You can ensure that this important work is compensated accordingly by ensuring that the jobs created are living-wage union jobs and prioritizing returning citizens.

We can prevent lead poisoning before it happens, and we can - we must - extend healthcare and nutritional assistance to children and adults who’ve already been exposed to lead, to correct the worst effects of lead exposure. We can prevent lead-poisoned soil from resurfacing in our neighbourhoods if we stop enabling the breakneck gentrification of Philadelphia and end the 10-year tax abatement. We can remediate contaminated soil by using organic removal methods and not just carting away poisoned soil and dumping it in a landfill somewhere.

Ambitious? Sure. It will take an ambitious plan to meet the scale of the problem we’re facing (a common theme in environmental justice!) It will take all of us - teachers, students, parents, returning citizens, workers - working together to solve this problem, and all the problems we face.

Candidates for City Council Endorse a Green New Deal for Philadelphia

From economic justice to asthma rates to immigration, candidates for City Council share why they endorse a Green New Deal for Philadelphia

Philadelphia, PA – Young people with Sunrise Philadelphia held a press conference at City Hall to launch a Green New Deal for Philadelphia. They were joined by eight candidates for City Council who are some of the earliest to endorse the Green New Deal for Philadelphia. Candidates spoke for a few minutes each about economic, racial, and climate crises in the city and how a Green New Deal for Philadelphia is the solution.

“Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the country, and the climate crisis will only intensify every inequity that Philadelphians already face,” explains Nicole Karsch, a volunteer with Sunrise Philadelphia. “We need a Green New Deal for Philadelphia and we need candidates for City Council who are willing to champion it.”

Sunrise Philadelphia launched a Philadelphia Green New Deal Platform modeled off of the Resolution introduced in the House and Senate by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey. The platform includes climate solutions such as eliminating greenhouse gas pollution and committing to renewable energy by 2030, but also economic solutions including the creation of living-wage union jobs to retrofit city buildings, housing, and schools.

“A Green New Deal is not only about climate justice, it is also about racial and economic justice for our communities,” said Adrian Rivera-Reyes.

Other candidates connected the work that they do in the city to the climate crisis. “For the last 8 years I have been working for Juntos. Many of the families I have supported come because climate change is causing immigration. With the Green New Deal, we can be a model for the country like we were with the sanctuary city,” said Erika Almirón.

Some spoke about public health. “Whether it’s mold and asbestos poisoning our students or rising waters that will flood the city, climate change is upon us,” said Tonya Bah, a Sunrise endorsed candidate in the 8th District.

Sherrie Cohen touched on the future of energy in Philadelphia. “We must reject Philly’s LNG [liquified natural gas] proposal. The city must commit to an energy transition of PGW to 100% renewable energy.” Beth Finn called for the creation of a public bank.

Candidates echoed the urgency that young people are bringing to the Green New Deal. “Our city is in a state of emergency. This is a fight for our lives,” declared Joe Cox. They are ready to champion solutions. “It is the Philly Green New Deal that I am excited to run on,” said Tonya Bah.

The full list of candidates who endorse the platform so far include Tonya Bah, Adrian Rivera-Reyes, Beth Finn, Joe Cox, Erika Almirón, Sherrie Cohen, Justin DiBerardinis, Isaiah Thomas, and Helen Gym. Organizers are encouraging candidates to make public statements in support of the Philadelphia Green New Deal Platform. The full Philadelphia Green New Deal Platform can be found at

PA State Director Sophia Zaia speaking City Council candidate Sherrie Cohen speaking

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