State fails to meet guidelines on lead in homes

By David Abel,

leadinhomesShortly after Jahnyi O’Neal’s first birthday, a routine blood test revealed an elevated level of lead — nearly double the amount that federal health officials say can harm children.

But his doctors weren’t required to notify state authorities or discuss the potential harms with his family, because Massachusetts standards allow a much higher level of lead in the blood before triggering state intervention.

Within a year, while his family remained unaware that the boy was in danger, Jahnyi’s blood lead level tripled, finally reaching a threshold that mandated a home inspection and an expensive deleading of the boy’s century-old Dorchester home.

“He could have permanent brain damage. We had no idea,” said Lenora O’Neal, his great-grandmother, who owns the seven-bedroom home in the Grove Hall neighborhood.

Three years after federal health officials cut by half the amount of lead in a child’s blood that they said warrants medical attention, Massachusetts has yet to tighten its standards.

As a result, thousands of children in the state may be at greater risk of lead poisoning, which can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and in the worst cases, even death, public health advocates and lawmakers say. Read more

NY Governor Signs Legislation to Protect Workers and Homeowners Involved in Mold Assessment, Remediation and Abatement


cuomoGovernor Andrew M. Cuomo today was honored by the NYS Laborers and the NYS Pipefitters and Plumbers at their respective events in Warren County. The Governor was presented with the “Champion of Organized Labor” award by the Laborers and the “NY Builder” award by the Pipefitters and Plumbers. These awards come on the heels of the Governor’s presentation of a comprehensive vision to transform LaGuardia airport.

Additionally, the Governor also signed legislation to protect workers who are involved in the cleanup of mold from harm. The law modifies and improves upon a new licensing requirement for contractors and workers engaged in the assessment, remediation and abatement of mold. Read more

Report finds 4 Brands Of Crayons Which Contain Asbestos

By Tara Culp-Ressler,

crayonsSeveral brands of crayons and toy detective kits have tested positive for asbestos, a knowncarcinogen, according to a report released this week by an environmental group that’s advocating for the government to crack down on the substance.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action Fund partnered with two independent laboratories to test for asbestos in crayons and children’s crime scene fingerprint kits purchased at national retailers. Four brands of crayons and two crime scene kits came back positive with trace elements of the substance — even though toy manufacturers have previously promised to make sure their products are free from the potentially harmful material.

Products that tested positive for asbestos were all manufactured in China and imported to the United States. The toys essentially contain microscopic asbestos fibers that children may end up inhaling as they use them.

The risk of asbestos exposure from the products tested — which include crayons marketed with the popular characters Mickey Mouse, the Power Rangers, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — is relatively low. But environmental researchers and health experts argue that children shouldn’t be around asbestos all, particularly since the government has acknowledged there’s no “safe” level of exposure.

“Asbestos in toys poses an unacceptable risk to children,” Dr. Philip Landrigan, a pediatrics professor at Mt. Sinai Hospital, explains in the EWG Action Fund’s report. Landrigan used to be a senior adviser to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on children’s environmental health. Read more

1,000 kids diagnosed with lead poisoning in 2014

By Larry Yellen,

1000kidsLead-based paints were banned in 1978, and still one thousand Chicago children were diagnosed with lead poisoning just last year.

Rates in Chicago are four times the national average.

“I just don’t like it when he touches the walls, cause he’ll touch his hands, lick his hands,” said mother Samirah Hall.

Some Chicago mothers fear their children will get lead poisoning, while others recall childhood friends who did.

“He had a problem, because he ate lead. And his mom wasn’t aware that he had eaten it until it was too late. And it affected him his whole life,” said Chicagoan resident Shawnte Burton.

His whole life might have changed if years ago researchers had the tools that are being used now to predict which neighborhoods, even which homes, were most likely to contain lead poisoning hazards.

It would have made Anne Evens job a lot easier. She worked in the city’s lead poisoning prevention program for ten years.

“Most kids get exposed as they’re toddlers and they’re crawling around, exploring their environments, normal behavior.  They get dust on their hands. They put their hands in their mouths. They put toys in their mouths, and that’s how they get exposed,” said Evens, CEO of Elevate Energy.

Now, Evens runs a non-profit which makes homes more energy-efficient by replacing their windows. Many of those windows pre-dated 1978, so the window frames included lead based paints.

“Lead is a neurotoxin, which means it damages your child’s developing brain. That means children with lead poisoning have trouble learning to read. They also suffer from behavioral problems. So they get exposed when they’re toddlers and the problems really show up once they get to school,” Evens said. Read more

Federal Asbestos Regulations Failed To Be Met At An Iowa High School

By Jillian Duff,

georgewashschoolConstruction workers at George Washington Senior High School in Cedar Rapids failed to meet asbestos removal regulations. As a result, fibers from the hazardous material became airborne and now the school is closed for further abatement and testing.

According to the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s Manger of Buildings and Grounds Rob Kleinsmith, construction was occurring to finish the third and final year of replacing the school’s heating and ventilation system when the asbestos was discovered.

Environmental Program Supervisor in the Department of Natural Resources’ Air Quality Bureau Brian Hutchins, said, “The material isn’t a health risk as long as it’s properly contained.”

Currently, laws do not exist to mandate removal of all asbestos from schools, but each school should have a management plan in case the toxic mineral becomes damaged and no longer contained. By law, parents can review the management plan in place and if no action is taken to correct the situation soon, the local U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should be notified immediately. Read more

Judge slams NYCHA officials for not showing up to hearing addressing cleanup of toxic mold in public housing


nychaA judge overseeing NYCHA’s flailing efforts to clean up its toxic mold problem ripped into agency officials for being no-shows at a hearing Friday.

A lone NYCHA lawyer showed up, but none of the top brass appeared in Manhattan Federal Court to answer why they’ve failed to live up to a 2013 promise to abate mold in decrepit apartments.

“Why wouldn’t some policy-making, decision-making official of NYCHA be here?” fumed Judge William Pauley. “I can’t believe they have more important things to do.”

In December 2013, NYCHA signed a consent decree, promising to “effectively remediate” mold infestation deemed “simple” within seven days and mold deemed “complex” within 15 days.

Months later, tenants who sued say in one-third of these so-called “remediations,” the mold returns. Lawyers for the tenants also say NYCHA is now interpreting the decree to give themselves more time to fix things. Read more

N.J. man sentenced for lying about church asbestos removal

By Matt Gray,

Judges_GavelA Voorhees man was sentenced to one year and a day in prison Tuesday for claiming he had removed asbestos from a former church when he never actually did the work, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Ronen Bakshi, 54, submitted false documents to the City of Philadelphia’s Air Management Services office in connection with a project to remove asbestos-containing material from a former church at 1133 Spring Garden St.

Bakshi billed the non-profit owner of the property for work he never performed, authorities said. Read more

Lead Contamination Near Exide Plant May Be Worse Than Previously Thought

By Randy Paige,

Exide plantLead contamination near the Exide Technologies battery-recycling facility in Vernon could be far worse than previously thought.According to environmental health experts, the contamination goes far beyond areas previously known, reported CBS2’s Randy Paige.

Last year, two residential areas within the toxic emissions of the nearby facility were tested and widespread contamination was found.

The state department of Toxic Substances Control required Exide to remove the dirt from the yards of contaminated homes. The two initial areas, north and south of the plant, contained slightly more than 200 homes. But test results are now in for an expanded area.

John Froines, a noted professor emeritus of toxicology at the UCLA School of Public Health, says the amount of contamination in the expanded areas is equal to the contamination in the first two assessment areas – enough lead to poison children who live there.

“There’s no question children are at risk and significantly so,” he said.

CBS2 wanted to speak with Barbara Lee, the director of the state department of Toxic Substances Control, to ask her what her agency is doing to protect the people who live in the community.However, Lee refused to speak to the news station on camera or to answer any questions. She referred the news station instead to her staff, who responded with an email, which said in part: “We did not find any emergency levels of lead as defined by the U.S. EPA.”

The U.S. EPA has two requirements in order to declare an emergency – contaminated soil and victims with lead poisoning in their blood.

While the lead levels were enough to fall under the EPA definition of “emergency,” there were no blood poisoned victims identified. “Thus,” the DTSC writes, “there is no emergency.” Read more

River bacteria that killed Mechanicsville man identified

By Laura Kebede, Richmond Times-Dispatch

VibrioBacteriaThe river bacteria that contributed to the death of a Mechanicsville man last week has been identified as Vibrio vulnificus, a health official said.

Charlie Horner, 75, died after a cut from a catfish barb became infected with the bacteria Saturday at the Rappahannock River in Essex County. His leg was amputated Monday to stall the spread of the infection, but he died two days later.

Horner’s was the first death of 2015 reported in Virginia attributed to Vibrio vulnificus. There have been 17 cases so far this year, five of which were from wound infections, according to preliminary state data.

Vibrio vulnificus naturally occurs in brackish and salt water, especially during the warmer months, including in parts of the James River as it mixes with salt water from the Chesapeake Bay. Its prevalence peaks in July because the bacteria replicates faster in warmer water. It can enter the bloodstream through open wounds or cuts, or when a person eats contaminated shellfish. Read more

Google’s Street View cars have been quietly testing air pollution

by  Katie Fehrenbacher,

googlemobileWhile Google’s Street View cars have been busy snapping images of roads across the globe, including some of the most remote locations on Earth, a small handful of the smart vehicles have been quietly gathering data on something that’s much harder to see: air pollution.

Three of Google’s Street View cars were equipped with sensors from San Francisco startup Aclima and the roving sensor-laden vehicles spent a month driving around Denver last year, testing the air quality. The cars spent 750 hours on the city’s streets and collected 150 million data points about levels of various air pollutants, many of them caused directly and indirectly by gas-powered cars and fossil fuel-based power plants. The test was done in collaboration with NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency.

A key point of the test was to validate seven-year-old Aclima’s environmental sensor tech, which is a first step for the startup to offer the environmental sensors more widely. The company uses algorithms, big data analytics and machine learning to make its sensor data highly accurate. The company also makes it own hardware and has been developing what it says is the world’s smallest particulate matter sensor in collaboration with the EPA and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Read more


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