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Leaked Emails Claim Snyder Administration Withheld Lead Testing Results

By Bryce Covert, http://thinkprogress.org/

In emails obtained by The Flint Journal, local health officials in Flint accuse the administration of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) of withholding the results of lead testing in the city’s schools before making them public.

Flint switched its water source in April 2014 to the Flint River and failed to use corrosion controls, steps that are now known to have caused dangerous levels of lead to leach into the city’s water system. On October 2, 2015, a day after Snyder says he learned that there were elevated lead levels in the city, he initiated lead testing, including at the schools.

But the results of those tests weren’t released to the public for six days, despite the numerous health risks associated with consuming lead-contaminated water. In one of the emails, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, Jim Henry, the county’s environmental health supervisor, wrote, “MDEQ [the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality] explained that the Governor prohibited releasing all Genesee County lead results until after the press conference,” which took place on October 8.

In an interview this Wednesday with the Journal, Henry elaborated that Genessee County officials like him didn’t learn about the test results until they were distributed at the press conference. “They should have alerted the schools and they didn’t,” he said.

The tests, when made public, showed that three school district buildings tested above 15 parts of lead per billion, the threshold above which the Environmental Protection Agency recommends taking corrective action, although researchers say there is no safe level of lead. One school tested at 101 parts per billion, more than six times that level. Read more

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State of lead poisoning in the U.S.

By Natalie Morin, wtop.com

The dangerous amount of lead recently found in the water supply of Flint, Mich. came as a shock to the majority of the American people. Believe it or not, many other states are familiar with the problem of elevated lead levels in children.

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HealthGrove found 21 states with the percentages of children younger than 6 years who tested positive for elevated blood lead levels. Elevated blood lead levels is defined as equal to or greater than 10 ug/dL lead in blood for children younger than 6. These blood lead levels are detected through blood lead tests conducted in labs. HealthGrove only included states that reported 2014 statistics, as data reporting is not mandatory for all states, and the list is in no particular order as coverage in each state is sparse. Read more

This Rocker Has A Heavy Metal Warning For Fellow Parents

By Lynne Peeples, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

JohnfishmanWhen Jon Fishman’s family moved into their 200-year-old Maine farmhouse years ago, they didn’t think to be concerned about lead paint hazards. That all changed this February, a few minutes after a pediatrician pricked their toddler son’s toe. The rapid blood test revealed the presence of lead.

Tiny, largely invisible particles of the poison, they would later confirm, had taken residence in their home — making them one of the at least 4 million households with children that are exposed to deteriorated lead paint and elevated levels of lead dust, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now Fishman, the drummer for the band Phish, wants to share what he’s learned so that other parents have their young children screened for lead. He also wants to ensure people avoid renting, buying, selling or remodeling a home while blind to the threat of the neurotoxic heavy metal.

“I’m just trying to parlay the little celebrity I have to raise awareness,” he said. Fishman recently donated to the completion of “MisLEAD,” a forthcoming film on the lead issue, and will be hosting screenings in Vermont this October.

Homes built in the early to mid-20th century, during the heyday of lead-based paint, are most worrisome. Yet risks may reside in and around any building constructed or painted before 1978, when lead was finally banned from residential paint sold in the U.S.

“Lead is all over the damn place — aging and chipping,” said Fishman, who also discovered lead hazards in a lakeside cottage and a general store his family owns. “It’s an epidemic. And it’s causing serious health problems in lots of kids around the country.”

Of course, the majority of children who suffer from lead poisoning aren’t celebrity kids with multiple residences. Risks are generally highest in low-income communities, where lead paint can often be seen peeling from poorly-maintained properties. But the poison can still find its way onto the hands and into the mouth of any child.

Read more

HUD gives $101M to communities for lead paint, home hazard removal

By Trey Garrison, http://www.housingwire.com/

paintbrushesThe U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded over $101 million to 32 city, county and state governments.

The grant funding announced will reduce the number of lead-poisoned children and protect families by targeting health hazards in over 6,000 low-income homes with significant lead and/or other home health and safety hazards.

Earlier this week in Baltimore, Maryland, HUD Secretary Julián Castro announced the funding during a news conference with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as part of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative Back to School event, promoting healthier housing to improve school outcomes.

The City of Baltimore is one of the grantees.

HUD’s Lead Hazard Control grant programs has a demonstrated history of success, filling critical needs in urban communities where no other resources exist to address substandard housing that threatens the health of the most vulnerable residents.

“Every family deserves to live in a safe and healthy home where they can see their children thrive and excel,” said Castro. “Communities will use these grants to help eliminate home-related hazards in neighborhoods across the country. A healthy home is vital to the American Dream.” Read more

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

1,000 kids diagnosed with lead poisoning in 2014

By Larry Yellen, http://www.myfoxchicago.com/

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

The Scholastic Consequences of Chicago’s Lead Paint Problem

By Aarian Marshall, http://www.citylab.com/

dutchboypaintIt’s killed some children slowly. It’s sent others into convulsions. But in Chicago, in the first decade of this century, a new study finds, the effects of childhood lead poisoning were more subtle—though perhaps equally as devastating. Research published in April by Environmental Health finds that even limited lead exposure in childhood is linked with dramatically lower third-grade test scores, in math as well as reading.

The researchers, mostly Chicago-based public health scientists, looked at a particularly large sample size of Chicago children—58,650—born in the Windy City between 1994 and 1998. First, they used a database of these children’s medical records, with a particular focus on the lead levels in their blood. Then the researchers compared those blood levels with those same students’ performances on third-grade standardized tests, taken in Chicago public schools between 2003 and 2006.

Even after adjusting for poverty, race, gender, and the education levels of each child’s mother, a strong link between lead in the blood and academic performance emerged: The presence of just 5 to 9 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (μg/dL, the standard measure for blood-lead levels) elevated the risk of failing math and reading standard tests by 32 percent. The researchers estimated that a full 13 percent of failing test numbers in reading and 14.8 percent of failing test numbers in math were due to the effects of lead. This is particularly notable because the Centers for Disease Control only recently halved the bolo levels required for medical intervention in children—from 10 μg/dL prior to 2012, to 5 μg/dL today.

Read more

Massachusetts Students Show Academic Gains After Reducing Lead Exposure, Study Shows

By Hanna Sanchez, http://www.ischoolguide.com/

schoolkidsA new study suggests reducing the children’s lead exposure in Massachusetts have helped them do better in school, Jasmine Garsd of NPR News reported. Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, an Amherst College associate professor of economics, has been researching on the effects of lead since the 1990s. Her interest on the metal started when she was a graduate student at Harvard and was pregnant with her first child.

“Lead is a very useful metal, which is kind of how we got in this situation,” said Reyes, who lived in a lead-rich house.

“Throughout history people keep using lead despite the fact that it has these neurotoxic effects,” she added. The effects of lead in kids could lead to lower IQ and behavioral problems.

The study, published in the Harvard Educational Review, also found that schools with a larger decline in lead showed greater improvements in test scores. Reyes said the “unsatisfactory performance” in the state would have been 5 percent higher if lead usage remained at 1990 levels.

And “because the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program reduced children’s lead when they were very young,” she added, “those children performed substantially better when they were in elementary school.”

The report also showed 2 percent of children who would have been failing are now doing well because of the state’s lead policy. Read more

Brooklyn tot has high levels of toxic lead while NYCHA denies paint is a problem

By Greg B. Smith, http://www.nydailynews.com

leadpaintstampWhen tests showed Helen Jackson’s 2-year-old daughter had dangerous levels of toxic lead in her blood, the worried mom instantly suspected her public housing apartment.

Tests by city health officials say she might be right — though New York City Housing Authority officials insist she’s not. An attorney assisting the Jackson family knows which agency she believes.

“It’s clear that NYCHA is trying not to be blamed because they’re at fault, and the proof of that is the lead in that child’s body,” said lawyer Bonita Zelman. “Since she was born, she has only lived in that apartment.”

While NYCHA claimed paint in Jackson’s Brooklyn home tested negative for lead, a March 25 visit by city health inspectors found different. Read more

Schools unaware of lead-poisoned kids

By Todd B. Bates, Asbury Park Press

Photo: Tom Spader/Asbury Park Press

Photo: Tom Spader/Asbury Park Press

New Jersey’s rules on lead poisoning have some large loopholes.

Health care providers are required to test children 2 and under twice for toxic lead, a potent poison that can cause a lifetime of learning problems. Nonetheless, about 50,000 children were not tested by age 3, according to the latest state annual report. A loophole: Parents can refuse the test for any reason.

Even if elevated lead is found in a child’s blood, the state doesn’t require that schools be notified. That can leave schools in the dark about which students have lead poisoning and may need special education or other services — findings confirmed by an Asbury Park Press survey of 27 school districts, including those with the highest percentages of lead-poisoned children in the state.

Lead poisoning — often arising from exposure to lead paint dust and chips in older homes in urban areas — can cause learning, behavioral and other problems, but is preventable. It can cost more than $12,000 a year for special education per child, according to one study.

“We have to do a better job” addressing lead poisoning, said Jay S. Schneider, a pathology professor and lead poisoning expert at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. “We have to recognize that this is still a big problem. There are lots of kids who are being adversely affected by this, who are having their futures taken away from them. It’s just an awful thing and it’s unnecessary and people are suffering and they shouldn’t be.” Read more