By Alison Young and Donna Leinwand Leger,http://www.usatoday.com
Dozens of CDC scientists and other workers are now taking antibiotics and anxiously watching for any signs of disease, even though the agency issued a statement saying the risk of infection is “very low.”
A team of investigators from the Federal Select Agent Program, which polices labs working with potential bioterror germs, was expected to arrive at the CDC’s Atlanta headquarters today or tomorrow, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said Monday. Their investigation and an internal CDC inquiry seek to find out how one of the world’s premier public health laboratories mistakenly sent live samples of the particularly deadly Ames strain of anthrax to other agency labs, where workers believed the bacteria had been deactivated.
The CDC said Thursday that it may take disciplinary action against any employee whose failure to follow biosafety protocols led to the potential exposure of more than 80 employees to the deadly microbe.
Skinner said the head of the CDC’s Bioterror Rapid Response and Advanced Technology Laboratory had been “detailed to another job” pending completion of the agency’s review, but he said he could not confirm the employee’s name. Reuters, citing two CDC scientists who are not authorized to speak to the press, identified the employee is Michael Farrell.
Even with antibiotic treatment, anthrax has a fatality rate of 28% to 45%, depending on the type of exposure, according to information on the CDC’s website. It can take weeks or even months for symptoms to develop.
“There are a lot of people going through a lot of unnecessary anxious moments,” Skinner said. “Things like this shouldn’t happen. These are ‘never’ events. They should never happen. Period.”
Most of the staffers who are counted among possible exposures are scientists, lab technicians, administrative and maintenance staff who may have passed through areas where the live anthrax samples were handled without proper protective equipment and barriers, Skinner said.
About seven CDC scientists are at heightened risk because they had more direct exposure, he said. They would most likely have been vaccinated against anthrax previously because of their jobs. Now they’re taking antibiotics and would have been offered a booster vaccine, he said.
Some of this small group of scientists were involved in agitating or shaking test tubes of what they thought were deactivated anthrax spores, then lifting the tops off the tubes. That may have aerosolized the spores, creating the risk that these scientists inhaled some of the anthrax.
When working with live anthrax, scientists work in Biosafety Level 3 labs with safety equipment to prevent exposure. Live anthrax is supposed to be handled under negative air pressure in a special safety cabinet, and scientists wear personal breathing equipment.
But in the recent incident, because the scientists thought the spores were deactivated, the test tubes were opened in two Biosafety Level 2 labs with minimal protections, Skinner said. The scientists might have been wearing gloves, gowns and goggles, but they would not have been using a safety cabinet or a personal air supply. Read more
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
- EPA Study Finds Lead In Chicago Drinking Water Due To Repairs (wateronline.com)
- 7 Gnarly Chemicals Found in Your Drinking Water (organicauthority.com)
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.
- Lead Poisoning Prevention Week 2013: What Can You Do To Prevent Lead Paint Exposure? (medicaldaily.com)
- Raising Awareness of Lead Poisoning (voanews.com)
By Liz Szabo, http://www.usatoday.com
Pediatricians and public-health advocates are working to revive programs to protect children from lead poisoning, after what they describe as a series of devastating blows to their efforts.
Congress all but eliminated federal funding to prevent lead poisoning in 2012, cutting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s lead budget by more than 90%. There is no safe level of lead, the CDC estimates that 535,000 American kids have enough lead in their blood to put them at high risk for lead poisoning, which causes intellectual impairments and behavioral problems.
Although lead is no longer used in gasoline or paint, many children are still exposed by living in old housing with peeling paint. USA TODAY also has documented the hazards to children from shuttered lead smelting factories, which left layers of lead in backyards and playgrounds across the USA.
“It’s like they’re declaring victory in a war that has not been won,” says Jerome Paulson, a professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine, who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on environmental health. Read More
By Charles Choi, LiveScience.com
Predatory bacteria that devour microbes could help kill potentially lethal drug-resistant germs when antibiotics fail, researchers say.
Antibiotics currently help fight bacterial infections both in people and livestock, saving countless lives. However, constant use of these drugs has now bred germs resistant to many antibiotics — superbugs that some experts warn could lead to apocalyptic scenarios. Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that each year in the United States, nearly 2 million patients acquire infections in hospitals. Many of these infections are caused by these drug-resistant contagions.
Scientists are hunting for ways to overcome drug-resistant bacteria, such as viruses known as bacteriophages, which infect and kill only bacteria. Now investigators suggest predatory bacteria that eat other bacteria may serve as vital allies, too. Read More
By Terry Gibb, Michigan State University Extension
Spring cleaning is an annual ritual. Whether you’re cleaning, remodeling or renovating, you need to become knowledgeable about potential lead contamination and sources.
Many homes have one or more sources of lead contamination. Lead exposure can have health and environmental effects on humans and pets. Lead is a soft metal used in many products, including ceramics, printer’s ink, children’s toys, paint, solder, lead crystal, water pipes and gasoline. For many years, it was commonly used in these products. Lead can last for hundreds of years in the environment and never break down into a harmless substance.
In homes, the most common source of lead is from “paint dust” in older homes. While lead was banned in paints in 1978, 74 percent of homes built prior to 1980 may have high levels of lead paint. This is the most common source of exposure for children. They don’t eat peeling paint chips, instead they play in areas where deteriorating paint has produced paint dust. Most of this dust can be found near areas exposed to moisture, such as around doors, windows and exterior walls. If paint is intact (no chipping, peeling or chalking), then exposure is greatly reduced. Chalking that causes paint dust also comes from weathering or when surfaces rub or scrape together as in the case of door and window sills.
Do-it-yourself kits are available to test for lead. These kits will indicate the presence or absence of lead but will not indicate the amount of lead present.
Other sources of lead are contaminated soils and drinking water. While lead occurs naturally in soil, soils can become further contaminated through paint or leaded gasoline. Read More
By Lindsey Burnworth, http://www.wdtv.com
Something as simple as giving your kids a diet high in iron can put them at less of a risk for lead poisoning. That’s because if your kids have enough iron in their bodies, it’ll actually fight off the lead buildup on their organs.
If you suspect your kids could have high levels of lead in their bodies, doctors suggest getting them tested because that’s the only way you’ll know for sure. Read More
By R. C. Camphausen, http://www.digitaljournal.com
By Brett Wilkins, http://digitaljournal.com