Addressing Environmental Risks
By the Rev. Lynette Moran for the Abundant Health Team
We know that God breathes life into us, that the imagery of the Holy Spirit often involves filling us mere mortals via breath.
The air we breathe and other exposure in our environment also impact our lived experience. While asbestos and lead were banned from use in the 1970s (some states addressed this issue earlier), the impact of its previous use is still a challenge. (Worldwide a social justice issue emerges as an estimated 60 countries have not yet banned the use of lead, and lead exposure accounts for over one million deaths each year.)
Locally, more than two-thirds of the homes in Western PA were built before lead was outlawed at the federal level. Contaminants can still exist in paint chips, dust, soil, mulch, water supply/pipes, toys, and more. Children under the age of six are most impacted by lead exposure— developmental delays and neurological damage to children can be irreversible.
Advocating on this issue could involve:
- Educating and providing resources to congregants on lead and asbestos risk, assessment, and abatement.
- Assessing the risk in UMC properties. Beyond painted church walls, pay increased attention to preschool and childcare areas (including toys), playground, window areas, mulch, soil, pipes, and the parsonage.
- With results in hand, tier the issues in order of urgency and plan for addressing the issues in the coming months and/or years.
Testing for asbestos, lead presence, and lead exposure is widely available via tests available for purchase at home improvement centers and blood tests through PCPs. The cost of abatement—removal or addressing contaminants—can range from inexpensive updates to paint and more attention to cleaning to far more intensive measures that require certified construction companies.
Grants and programs vary widely based on city and county. Reach out to your city and county health departments, HUD, and social services that provide ‘safe and healthy home’ programming. Church and other non-profit infrastructure/improvement grants and loans may also provide resources to help create a safe space for our faith communities.
If your church has made or is considering making environmentally friendly investments, from energy efficient appliances and windows to solar panels or geothermal technology, please share your stories with email@example.com.