Blog Archives

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

Lead fishing tackle ingested by fish is killing loons and other birds

By Samantha Stark, http://www.dl-online.com/

leadtackleLead’s widespread use has resulted in worldwide environmental contamination, human exposure and significant public health problems.

Lead is an extremely toxic element that, over the years, has been removed from water pipes, gasoline, paint and other sources due to extensive health issues in humans, animals and the environment. Yet toxic lead is still entering the food chain through widespread use of lead fishing tackle.

Thousands of cranes, ducks, swans, loons, geese and other waterfowl ingest lead fishing tackle that was lost in lakes and rivers each year, often resulting in deadly consequences.

“All it takes is one small lead jig to kill a loon,” said Phil Votruba, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) watershed project manager. “It doesn’t take much.” 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

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

African Lead Mine Poisons Children

By Ben Barber, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

AfricanleadmineFrom the screaming children being tested for lead in this African city, to the clouds of toxic dust blown across soccer fields, streets and courtyards, this is one of the world’s worst lead poisoning epidemics.

The lowest blood lead levels in nearly 300 children we tested in July were around 35 micrograms per deciliter — six times above the acceptable level in the United States.

Many children tested above the limit of the electronic lead-testing machine we brought from the United States. These children should be treated in a hospital. But in Kabwe, toxic pollution has been a hidden legacy of mining and smelting lead.

This is not a story of numbers. It is a story of reduced intellect, neurological damage, inability to learn, stomach ailments and other problems.

“This is a public health crisis,” said Professor Jack Caravanos of the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College in New York, who led an investigating team in July that tested children’s blood and soil levels in Kabwe.

In crowded local clinics packed with anxious mothers and screaming children, his team found lead levels as much as 10 times above what is permissible in the United States.

“These are extraordinarily high levels not seen anywhere in the U.S. — this poses an immediate threat to child health,” said Caravanos, whose team was organized by the New York-based environmental group Blacksmith Institute, also known as Pure Earth.

“This is not fenced off — it is right in front of their house where they play every day.” Read more

100 cows killed after contracting lead poisoning on gun club land

By Kirsty Macnicol of the Fiordland Advocate

cowlandAbout 100 Southland dairy cows have died or been destroyed after contracting lead poisoning from grazing on a gun club property.

The Ministry of Primary Industries confirmed this week it was alerted by a Southland veterinary practice on July 23 of dairy cattle dying from lead poisoning on a Southland farm. The cattle had been grazing fodder beet grown on leased land owned by the Nightcaps Clay Target Club at Wreys Bush.

“Approximately 20 affected cattle, from a mob of about 100 cows, died or were euthanised at that time, the farmer subsequently chose to humanely slaughter the remaining cattle. Some of the cattle were pregnant,” MPI said in a statement issued to the Fiordland Advocate.

Environment Southland worked with the MPI and the farmer to offer advice on various disposal methods for the cows.

“The decision by the owner to bury them in an offal hole was not Environment Southland’s preferred choice, however, at the time it did meet the rules under the Solid Waste Management Plan as a permitted activity. New rules that came into effect on1 September 2014 would have tightened the requirements in this situation. Staff provided best practice advice for the disposal,” the statement says. 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