Blog Archives

State fails to meet guidelines on lead in homes

By David Abel, http://www.bostonglobe.com

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

Baltimore boy, 17, awarded $2M in lead paint case

By Katie Lange, http://www.wbaltv.com/

A 17-year-old Baltimore boy who suffered permanent brain damage due to lead paint exposure where he lived when he was younger has been awarded $2 million in a civil case.

The victim, who wasn’t named because he’s a juvenile, was exposed to lead paint while living with his grandmother and mother at a home in the 1600 block of East 25th Street in northeast Baltimore from the time of his birth in 1997 until 2001, court testimony revealed.

The $2,088,550 verdict in the case against Elliott Dackman, of The Dackman Company, was rendered Friday, finding him negligent in failing to maintain the home in accordance with Maryland law. Officials said Dackman was the principal person behind the company that owned the building, as well as another company, Jacob Dackman & Sons LLC, which managed it.

“All the landlord had to do was paint the house, and they didn’t,” said the plaintiff’s attorney, Bruce Powell, of the Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl.

During the trial, experts testified that the boy suffered permanent brain damage that resulted in a loss of four to five IQ points, as well as several cognitive deficits, attention and focus problems, learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

“He’s been struggling in school up to this point, serious problems. He’s in high school. Last year, his GPA was below 1.0. (He’s) taking bridge classes and doing Saturday mornings to try and stay on track to graduate. It looks very iffy at this point,” Powell said.

Officials said in December 1997, the boy was tested and found to have a lead level of 12 micrograms per deciliter. That rose one point higher five months later, and eventually rose to 14 mcg/dl — more than double the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s reference level that’s used to identify kids with lead paint exposure. Read more

Young Shooters at Risk

By Christine Willmsen and Lewis Kamb, seattletimes.com

vancouver-rangeThe youngsters knew their sport could be dangerous, even deadly.

But for the junior team at the Vancouver (Wash.) Rifle and Pistol Club, the peril that emerged from their sport didn’t come from a stray bullet.

It came from lead.

In 2010, blood tests revealed that 20 youths had been overexposed to the poisonous metal after shooting in the club’s dirty, poorly ventilated range.

“It was devastating,” said Marc Ueltschi, the junior team coach and a club member. “It scared the life out of me. No one knew anything about lead poisoning and what to fix.”

Vancouver Rifle is just one of several private gun clubs across the United States that have posed health hazards in a sport with growing numbers of youths and women.

While those most likely to be poisoned by lead in gun ranges are the workers themselves, The Seattle Times has found dozens of avid shooters overexposed in such states as Washington, Massachusetts and Alaska.

The most vulnerable are children learning to shoot and compete in clubs operated by volunteers who may have little knowledge of the risks of firing lead ammunition. Gunfire can put lead residue in the air, and on the skin and nearby surfaces. Read more

China blames ‘pencil-chewing’ on lead-poisoning in children

By Karen Graham, http://www.digitaljournal.com

Pencil chewingA Chinese government official in Dapu, Hunan province has suggested that the cause of an outbreak of lead poisoning in over 300 children is the result of “pencil-chewing,” downplaying the possibility a chemical plant in the town could be at fault.
Beijing started its crackdown on polluters in April of this year, revising an already existing 1989 anti-pollution law by adding more teeth to the regulations. The revised lawis supposed to take effect the first of the year in 2015, but it seems that many provinces and industrial plants haven’t gotten the message.

State media is reporting that tests done on children in Dapu, Hunan province showed excessive lead levels in over 300 children, many of them too young to go to school. The head of Dapu’s governing body, Su Genlin, told reporters, “When kids are studying, they gnaw on their pencils — that also can cause lead poisoning.”

The official was dismissive of the chemical plant located in the township, as well as the lab reports of airborne dust in the village containing 22 times the legal limit of lead. He also failed to mention the levels of lead, zinc, cadmium and arsenic in the factory’s drainage ditch that runs into the village’s river. Those levels are three times the acceptable level considered safe.

According to the official news agency, Xinhua, township chief Su Genlin was dressed down and ridiculed online for his remarks. It seems the Chinese character for the heavy metal is also used for pencil, in much the same way that “lead” has a double-meaning in the English language. Lead hasn’t been used in pencils since the 1500s.

The People’s Daily, the official online mouthpiece of China’s ruling communist party, posted an op-ed on Monday, ridiculing the township leader. Commentator Zhang Yusheng wrote, “It is scientific knowledge that pencils are made from graphite. Does this official’s statement show ignorance, or just disregard for the people’s welfare?”

While people in Dapu are outraged that their children have been subjected to substances that can cause liver, kidney, brain and nervous system damage, they are not alone in their anger. China has been plagued with literally thousands of cases of children being poisoned by lead linked to industrial pollution. It is well known that lead poisoning is the most common pediatric health problem in China today. Read more

South Minneapolis mom chipping away at lead poisoning hazard

By Beena Raghavendran, http://www.startribune.com

Ticiea FletcherIt was the porch windows’ fault.

Ticiea Fletcher, 43, would pop them open for a breeze as her children played in her south Minneapolis apartment, cleaning her floors regularly to clear settled dust.

But everything changed after a checkup in 2009 revealed that her 10-month-old son, Dustin Shields, had high levels of lead in his blood — 21 micrograms per deciliter. Her daughter, 1-year-old Logan Shields, had 18 micrograms.

Dustin, now 6, has developmental disabilities blamed on chipping lead paint around windows in the apartment, and Fletcher is on a mission to make sure that other children are spared that diagnosis.

“All the windows were full of lead poisoning and I wasn’t aware of it,” she said.

Now, Fletcher is spreading lead awareness through events and word of mouth. To promote her free blood-testing station for children under 6, Fletcher — who has a partnership with healthy-home advocate Sustainable Resources Center — last week was passing out fliers for an event to be held from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday at McRae Park.

And through her organization Missions to the Streets, which works with landlords and tenants to give homes to the homeless, Fletcher ensures her clients can detect lead risks in potential apartments.

At that time Dustin’s blood was tested, a level of 10 micrograms per deciliter was considered “elevated” and meant a lead poisoning diagnosis. In April, the Minnesota Commissioner of Health lowered the state’s threshold from 10 micrograms to 5. This means that lead exposure can be limited by removing its traces in homes earlier, said Joe Houseman, director of production for the Sustainable Resources Center, which carries out lead-abatement work.

Minnesota has seen a decrease in lead-poisoning cases over the years, but cases still surface, said Stephanie Yendell, principal epidemiologist for the Lead and Healthy Homes program at the Minnesota Department of Health. Houseman said a lower level will lead to more people diagnosed with lead poisoning.

In 2012, Minnesota saw 527 cases of elevated blood levels compared to 1,750 in 2002 — a decline that comes back to increased prevention efforts, according to the latest numbers from the state Department of Health. About 91,000 children under 6 were tested in 2011 and 2012, an increase from the early 2000s, the report said. Read more

Blood lead screenings offered near Exide plant

Posted by KABC-TV/DT, http://abclocal.go.com

Exide plantFree blood lead screenings are available for people who live, work or attend school near the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon.

Los Angeles County health officials made the screenings available Monday after excessive levels of lead were detected in recent emissions from the battery recycling plant. Elevated levels of lead were found in the yards of 39 homes around the plant.

“There are many sources of lead in our daily environment,” Director of Public Health Jonathan Fielding said. “However, it is clear that Exide Technologies has emitted unacceptably high levels of lead and other toxic chemicals into the surrounding communities for years.”

Exide recycles batteries and has been under close scrutiny by state and local regulators over the past year.

Residents from Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles have voiced concerns about their safety numerous times.

This is the latest in a string of problems surrounding the plant. In January, regional air quality officials sued Exide for $40 million, saying the plant exposed people to cancer-causing chemicals such as arsenic. Read More

Increase in miscarriages coincided with high levels of lead in D.C. water, study finds

By Carol D. Leonning, http://www.washingtonpost.comLead

Late-term miscarriages and spontaneous abortions occurred at an unusually high rate among Washington women from 2000 through 2003 — during the same time frame that lead levels were dangerously high in the city’s drinking water, a study has found.

The increase in fetal deaths was an anomalous spike for the District, and the rate of women losing advanced pregnancies returned to average levels in 2004. That is the year that a Washington Post story alerted the public to the widespread lead problem in tap water, and federal health officials began urging children and pregnant women to instead drink filtered or bottled water.

The study findings, which are scheduled to be published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, do not prove that the city’s lead crisis caused fetal deaths or miscarriages. But the results show a significant correlation between the two events.

Lead is an extremely toxic metal, and ingestion of lead paint dust and high doses of lead in water have been traced to brain damage, behavioral problems and developmental delays in children. Exposure to lead has also been linked to miscarriages. In the early 1900s, lead-laced pills were used to induce abortions.

The study, by Virginia Tech environmental engineer Marc Edwards, contrasts sharply with government-led health studies that were released amid an outcry after people learned of hazardous lead in the water in 2004. Those studies largely rejected the notion that the water had harmed public health.

The data seem “to confirm the expectation, based on prior research, that about 20 to 30 extra fetal deaths occurred each year that the lead in water was high,” Edwards said.

One rushed and disputed analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asserted in April 2004 that there was no indication of health trouble from the water problem, even among children in homes with the highest lead levels in the water. Under repeated criticism, the CDC published a corrected analysis in 2010, acknowledging that this overarching statement had been misleading and based on incomplete data.

Today, the city’s drinking water has historically low levels of lead. But Edwards’s study looks back at that period when the city had some of the highest lead spikes in water ever recorded in the United States. The study tracks the rate at which pregnant Washington women suffered miscarriages known as fetal deaths — losing a pregnancy after 20 weeks — and charted the data before, during and after the city’s experience with unusually high levels of lead in drinking water. Read More

EPA warns modernizing water system may boost levels of lead

WASA lead pipe replacement

WASA lead pipe replacement (Photo credit: IntangibleArts)

 

By Michael Hawthorne, Chicago Tribune

 

 

 

Chicago study finds high levels of toxic metal in areas of street work or plumbing repairs

 

Dangerous levels of lead are turning up in Chicago homes where pipes made of the toxic metal were disturbed by street work or plumbing repairs, according to a new federal study that suggests the city’s aggressive efforts to modernize its water system could inadvertently pose health risks.

The problem starts with lead service lines that Chicago installed across the city until the mid-1980s to connect water mains with homes. Researchers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that spikes of lead can leach into tap water when those pipes are altered by water main replacements, meter installations or street work.

High levels can be found in tap water for years afterward, the EPA study found, raising concerns that other cities with lead pipes could face similar problems.

Most homeowners likely are unaware they could be drinking tainted water. Under federal rules, utilities rarely are required to warn residents that work is being done or tell them they can take steps to reduce their exposure to lead. A potent neurotoxin, lead can damage the brains of young children, lower IQ and trigger learning disabilities, aggression and criminal behavior later in life.

Lead is so hazardous that the EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there is no safe level of exposure. The metal has been phased out of gasoline, removed from paint and banned in children’s toys. But the widespread use of lead pipes during the last century has left a festering problem nationwide.

“We owe it to people to tell them that their water might not be safe to drink,” said Marc Edwards, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech University who wasn’t involved with the EPA study but has reached similar conclusions in his own research. Read More

 

 

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

Prevent Lead Poisoning. Get your home tested. Get your child tested. Get the facts! Click here…

Childhood lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among young children, yet approximately half a million U.S. children have blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the reference level at which Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommends public health actions be initiated.

A simple blood test can prevent permanent damage that will last a lifetime. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), CDC, is committed to eliminating this burden to public health.

October 20 – 26th is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. During this time the CDC will strive to:

  • Raise awareness about lead poisoning;
  • Stress the importance of screening the highest risk children younger than 6 years of age (preferably by ages 1 and 2) if they have not been tested yet;
  • Highlight partners’ efforts to prevent childhood lead poisoning; and
  • Urge people to take steps to reduce lead exposure.

For more information on how you can prevent lead poisoning in your home and community visit the Lead Paint Resources page at Occupational Knowledge International.