Journal of Community Health

, Volume 42, Issue 6, pp 1255–1266 | Cite as

Urban Youth Knowledge and Attitudes Regarding Lead Poisoning

  • Sandra Bogar
  • Aniko Szabo
  • Shane Woodruff
  • Sheri Johnson
Original Paper


Environmental health literacy (EHL) is a promising and evolving field of research that could benefit from youth engagement. Yet studies focused on youths' environmental health awareness and concerns are limited. For example, although lead exposure remains a threat to youth development in urban environments, no published studies have measured urban youth's knowledge of lead poisoning. A CBPR partnership established a youth advisory council (YAC) who helped to design, interpret and disseminate a mixed methods study exploring environmental health perceptions among urban youths ages 10–18. Surveys assessed awareness, attitudes, and knowledge regarding lead poisoning and five environmental health issues determined by the YAC. Focus group questions further contextualized youths' lead knowledge and understanding of youths' environmental health concerns. A majority of youth could identify specific sources of lead exposure but had minimal knowledge of prevention strategies, and focus group data revealed misinformation regarding lead sources and consequences. Survey and focus group respondents' level of awareness and concern regarding YAC-selected EH issues was high in comparison to lead poisoning. In particular, job opportunities and police brutality were endorsed as both neighborhood concerns and priorities. Awareness and knowledge of environmental health issues among urban youth have not been well described. These findings reinforce the importance of addressing problems of local relevance. Moving forward, lead poisoning prevention education for youth and youth EHL partnerships may benefit from incorporating an ecological approach wherein connections to the social and economic context are made explicit.


Environmental health literacy Youth Lead Poisoning CBPR 



We’d like to acknowledge the support of members of the Youth Advisory Council: Danielle Burrell, Tarif Garrett, Tiyana Miner, Muse Mohamed, Eric Newson, Jerimiah Phillips, Miciah Phillips, and Brian Sims-Smith, Running Rebels directors Victor and Dawn Barnett, and dissertation committee members Drs. Kirsten Beyer, Earnestine Willis, and Staci Young. Finally, we acknowledge Purple Door Ice cream and the Medical College of Wisconsin for their financial support.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

No authors have any conflicts of interest to report.

Ethical Approval

All research protocols were reviewed and approved by the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Institutional Review Board.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandra Bogar
    • 1
  • Aniko Szabo
    • 2
  • Shane Woodruff
    • 3
  • Sheri Johnson
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute for Health & EquityMedical College of WisconsinMilwaukeeUSA
  2. 2.Division of Biostatistics, Institute for Health & EquityMedical College of WisconsinMilwaukeeUSA
  3. 3.Running Rebels Community OrganizationMilwaukeeUSA
  4. 4.Center for the Advancement of Underserved Children, PediatricsMedical College of WisconsinMilwaukeeUSA

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