About Operation Paydirt

Lead Contanimation, New Orleans
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Operation Paydirt/Fundred Dollar Bill Project is a national, artist-driven, multidisciplinary project with a critical mission: to support awareness and solutions to lead contamination and help end childhood lead poisoning. See more about Operation Paydirt here.

The Fundred Dollar Bill Project supports Operation Paydirt by symbolically raising millions of Fundreds representing our collective will to end to childhood lead poisoning.

How Did Operation Paydirt Start?

Operation Paydirt began in New Orleans in 2006 as a way to engage grassroots communities in a creative action to instigate awareness and solutions for the national crisis of lead-contamination.

Artist Mel Chin initiated Operation Paydirt in New Orleans, where he encountered the reality of 86,000 lead contaminated residential properties. Recognizing the connection to the violence in the inner-city, and a distinct lack of awareness and education about these dangers of lead poisoning, he resolved to be an instigator of change to “make real” the social change so clearly needed. Although the project began in New Orleans, environmental lead contamination is a national issue compromising the health of our children, communities and society.

What Has Operation Paydirt done so far?

Since its beginning, Operation Paydirt has inspired research, remediation, engagement and awareness all key to supporting solutions to childhood lead poisoning.

Operation Paydirt’s Fundred Dollar Bill Project has grown from a modest initiative involving a few thousand participants, to raising awareness of the issue with over 400,0000 participants across the country. Operation Paydirt’s technical collaborations with leading geochemists and metals speciation specialists have resulted in the development of a scientific method for urban soil remediation. The Operation Paydirt Treat, Lock and Cover protocol (TLC) has now been used to remediate 150 properties in a model Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program in Oakland, California. Operation Paydirt’s efforts are also behind a HUD funded research project to maximize the transformation of toxic lead in soil in New Orleans.

Operation Paydirt is continuing to engage partners to address the problem of childhood lead poisoning by advancing prevention awareness, science and remediation. While the ultimate goal of Operation Paydirt has remained the same, the project has evolved interrelated initiatives responding to the complexities of accomplishing real solutions to lead poisoning.

Where Does the Lead Come From?

Although the use of lead (Pb) is now limited, residual lead dust (primarily from gasoline and paint) remains in homes, yards, parks, and play fields.

Why is Lead a Problem?

Children have a high sensitivity to lead as their bodies and brains are developing. There are serious consequences resulting from children exposed to lead dust. Lead poisoning can affect brain development and cause learning disabilities, lowered IQ, behavior and attention problems, hearing damage, nervous system and kidney damage.

Many studies indicate a direct connection between lead poisoning and poor performance in the schools, learning disabilities, juvenile delinquency and violent crime.

A growing body of literature is detailing the societal costs of lead-poisoning. Lead poisoning is related to attention deficit-hyperactivity disorders and the need for special education. The correlation between early lead-exposure to adult-onset health problems is proven. The financial impacts are evident when considering lifetime earning potential and the direct costs of crime and its related costs.