Nearly 3,000 young children were poisoned last year by the lead paint wearing off the old housing in Rhode Island’s cities and towns. The rate of lead-poisoned children is two-and-a-half times higher in Rhode Island than the rest of the U.S.; the rate in Providence is four times higher than elsewhere in the country. Eight percent of white children tested in 1999 had lead-poisoning, while the numbers jumped to 16 percent of Hispanic children and 24 percent of black and Southeast Asian children. Federal, state, and local agencies are working on the lead problem, but the poisonings persist. State Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse (D) has begun going after unresponsive landlords and has filed an unprecedented lawsuit against companies that manufactured the lead paint.