Blog Archives

Does Lead Poisoning Make You More Likely To Become A Criminal?

By Lecia Bushak, http://www.medicaldaily.com

 Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

In the U.S., crime has been reduced significantly in the past several decades. Economists and researchers have hypothesized that this decline in crime is somehow linked to the removal of high lead levels from common things like gasoline or paint, and thus claim that lead poisoning at an early age may be cause for criminal activity later on.

Before Rudy Giuliani became the mayor of New York City in the early 1990s, the Big Apple was known for its high crime rates. Since the 1960s, rape, murder, and robbery rates had ballooned significantly. Giuliani came along with a plan to decrease crime with the “broken windows” theory, and it worked; crime dropped significantly. But it wasn’t just in New York City. Amazingly enough, it was happening all across the States during the last decade of the 20th century.

Why did the homicide rate decrease by over 40 percent by the end of the 1990s? Economists and criminologists have struggled to find a clear cut answer, and perhaps there is none. Some believe it’s because of an increase in police officers; others point to the fact that the number of criminals who are behind bars has risen. However, a fraction of researchers believe that the decline of crime is linked to lead.

Research has shown that having high levels of lead in blood could lead to decreased cognitive function, as well as aggressive or violent characteristics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), having 5 micrograms per deciliter of lead in a child’s blood is considered abnormal. During the 1970s, the average U.S. resident had significantly higher levels of lead in their blood than the average person today.

So some economists have hypothesized that as the amount of leaded gasoline and lead paint increased during the 1970s, so did crime rates. Likewise, when lead levels began to drop, so did crime. Read More

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3D Maps Reveal a Lead-Laced Ocean

By David Malakoff, http://news.sciencemag.org

oceanmap

3D graphics by Steven van Heuven, courtesy Hein de Baar, Rob Middag, Abigail Noble, and Christian Schlosser

About 1000 meters down in a remote part of the Atlantic Ocean sits an unusual legacy of humanity’s love affair with the automobile. It’s a huge mass of seawater infused with traces of the toxic metal lead, a pollutant once widely emitted by cars burning leaded gasoline. Decades ago, the United States and Europe banned leaded gas and many other uses of the metal, but the pollutant’s fingerprint lingers on—as shown by remarkably detailed new maps released here this week at the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting.

The 3D maps and animations are the early results of an unprecedented $300 million international collaboration to document the presence of trace metals and other chemicals in the world’s oceans. The substances, which often occur in minute quantities, can provide important clues to understanding the ocean’s past—such as how seawater masses have moved around over centuries—and its future, such as how climate change might shift key biochemical processes. Over about 30 cruises in the past few years, researchers have collected nearly 30,000 water samples at 787 study sites. Then, using painstaking techniques—including wearing “moon suits” and working in clean rooms to prevent contamination—they’ve measured elements like iron, nickel, and zinc. The effort, known as GEOTRACES, “is a huge improvement over what we were able to do in the past,” says ocean chemist Hein de Baar of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research in Texel.

GEOTRACES is tracking some 200 elements and other substances, but the lead maps released this week tell an especially sobering story of past pollution—and continuing contamination. In the central Atlantic, for example, the maps show a huge slug of subsurface seawater with lead levels higher than those in surface or deeper waters. That tainted water was once at the surface, where it collected airborne lead particles, explains chemical oceanographer Abigail Noble of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. But the surface water slowly sank into the deep ocean, essentially becoming a time capsule recording “the incredible impact that we have had on the oceans in the past, and how it changes over time.”

Although the elevated lead levels stand out as red and yellow blotches on the GEOTRACES maps, the concentrations are too low to pose a major threat to humans or wildlife, says MIT ocean scientist Edward Boyle. “You probably aren’t going to see stupid fish or whales swimming around,” he says, alluding to the brain damage that can be caused by lead exposure. The lead concentrations are roughly equivalent to what you’d get if you dissolved a small spoonful of frozen orange juice in 200 Olympic-sized swimming pools, Noble estimates. And lead levels in much of the Atlantic have dropped dramatically over the past few decades, Noble and Boyle note, mostly thanks to the lead phaseout in the United States and Europe. Read More

Lead And Asbestos-Ridden ‘Alcatraz Of The East’ Available For Lease At Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

 By Emily Corwin, http://nhpr.org

Credit rjzii via Flickr Creative Commons

Credit rjzii via Flickr Creative Commons

The US Navy will offer for lease the former Naval Prison on the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

The Navy has twice before sought private-sector redevelopment of the old Naval Prison, which closed in 1974.  It was built in 1908, and has been called the “Alcatraz of the East.”

The medieval-looking multi-story building is 265,000 square feet and has 11 and a half acres of waterfront land.

The new tenant would be responsible for ensuring structural stability in the now-dilapidated building, and cleaning up hazardous waste, including asbestos and lead paint. Read More

Geologists find natural asbestos fibers in Nevada

By Henry Brean, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Steve Andrascik/Las Vegas Review-Journal

Steve Andrascik/Las Vegas Review-Journal

Removing asbestos from an old building can be hazardous and expensive. So what happens if the ground outside is covered with the stuff for miles around?

That’s what a team of UNLV geologists is trying to figure out after the surprise discovery of potentially toxic, asbestos-type minerals in rocks and dust from Boulder City to the southeastern edge of the Las Vegas Valley.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas geology professor Brenda Buck said this marks the first discovery of naturally occurring asbestos fibers in Southern Nevada.

A peer-reviewed study detailing the find was published last month in the journal of the Soil Science Society of America.

So how worried should everyone be?

“At this point we know enough to know there is a hazard. We don’t know what the risk is,” Buck told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. Until we know more, it would be a good idea to avoid dust from those areas.”

That could be a tall order.

The study area takes in all of Boulder City and a wide swath of the Eldorado Valley, with tendrils that reach to the shore of Lake Mead and into the oldest parts of Henderson.

“It’s not everywhere, but I think you’re going to have a hard time not finding it,” Buck said. “In every sample we looked at we found it. We found it pretty easily, too. I didn’t have to look very hard.”

For one test, Buck spent about three hours walking her horse along a dirt road in Boulder City. When she was done, she found asbestos fibers on her pants and her shoes.

“The last thing we want to do is upset people or cause a panic. But on the other side, we don’t want to give people assurances we can’t give,” said UNLV geologist Rodney Metcalf, who partnered with Buck on the study. “We can’t in good conscience say there’s no problem.”

The long, thin minerals were forged roughly 13 million years ago in the roots of volcanoes, also known as plutons. “Boulder City sits on top of one of these plutons,” Metcalf said.

The fibers have been weathering from the ground for the past 12 million years or so, giving them plenty of time to spread out, Buck said.

She specializes in something called medical geology, basically the study of the health impacts of minerals. She was in the midst of sampling arsenic in the dust blowing from Nellis Dunes when she came across a fibrous mineral in one of her samples. She later started talking to Metcalf about the asbestos-like fibers he was studying in northwestern Arizona, and the two decided to go looking for trouble in similar rock deposits in Southern Nevada.

What they mostly found was a mineral called actinolite, one of six types of asbestos regulated as a toxic substance by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Read More

Asbestos fears follow in the wake of cyclone Christine

By Leanne Nicholson, http://www.watoday.com.au

cyclone asbestosThe cyclonic winds and pelting rain may have passed by Western Australia’s Pilbara and Kimberley regions, however, ex-tropical cyclone Christine has exposed a fresh yet familiar danger for residents to contend with.

Asbestos in buildings, fencing and other building products dislodged or damaged during the wild weather now pose an additional health risk to Pilbara residents if they are exposed to the cancer-causing material.

Slater and Gordon asbestos lawyer Laine McDonald issued the warning to residents of the risks of asbestos exposure during the cleaning up of properties, homes and businesses battered by Christine.

“Once asbestos is disturbed, it can pose a real danger to health,” Ms McDonald said.

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“Residents who are returning to their homes and businesses could be at risk of exposure, especially if they start cleaning up without the right protection.

“While it’s difficult to tell if a structure contains asbestos, if it was built in the mid-1980s – the time when this common building product was phased out – you assume there’s a risk.”

It’s believe about 600 Australian are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.

Asbestos was commonly used as a construction material throughout the Pilbara.

It was mined in Wittenoom, 1100 kilometres north-east of Perth in the Pilbara, before the town was evacuated and essentially wiped off the map by authorities.

“Asbestos products damaged by severe storms like cyclone Christine can release a very dangerous dust which, once breathed in, can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and other serious illnesses,” Ms McDonald said.

“Each year around 250 Western Australians die from asbestos-related diseases, with a lag of about 30-40 years between exposure and diagnosis of an illness.

“Asbestos products are still in our homes, businesses and communities more than 40 years after the Wittenoom mine closed, so it’s a hazard that continues to confront us all.”

Despite the category three cyclone coming within about 100 kilometres of the Town of Port Hedland, mayor Kelly Howlett said the district had escaped with minor damage, mostly to the area’s natural landscape.

“We’ve got a lot of cleaning up to do but we were very fortunate,” Cr Howlett said.

“We’ve not seen any bad structural damage, just a few trees down, a lot of sand swept up from the beach and a bit of flooding.”

Cr Howlett said new and updated property development in the region had reduced the number of buildings containing asbestos. Read More

Bacteria, Mold Found In Vacuum Dust

Dust bunnies

Dust bunnies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Posted by http://www.huffingtonpost.com

 

Think the dust created by your vacuum only contains harmless hair and dust bunnies? A new study suggests more nefarious organisms could be lurking.

 

The study, published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, shows that mold and bacteria — with some bacteria even carrying antibiotic resistance genes, as well as the Clostridium botulinum toxin gene — are present in aerosolized vacuum dust. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland, the Universitaire de Cardiologie et de Pneumologie de Quebec, and the Universite Laval.

 

“Human skin and hair have been shown to be strong sources of bacteria in floor dust and air indoors, which can be readily resuspended and inhaled,” the researchers wrote in the study. “Our results show that although vacuum operation is typically brief, vacuum emissions can release appreciable quantities of human-derived bacteria. Such emissions could potentially lead to inhalation of infectious or allergenic aerosols.”

 

While researchers did not actually show in the study that the bacteria and mold in the vacuum dust caused health problems, they noted it does illustrate the “potential capability of vacuum cleaners to disseminate appreciable quantities of molds and human-associated bacteria indoors and their role as a source of exposure to bioaerosols.” Read More

 

 

Lead advice group cut as poison concerns increase

lead paint on leila's house

lead paint on leila’s house (Photo credit: wayneandwax)

 

By Sue White, ABC Environment

 

Questions are being raised as to the ‘safe’ level of lead in children’s blood. They come as a popular Australian lead advisory group has its funding taken away.

 

ANY DAY NOW, the phone is about to ring in a small Sydney-based not-for-profit for the 100,000th time. But when caller number 100,000 gets through to the Global Lead Advice and Support Service (GLASS), there may be no one to take the call.

 

It’s not for a lack of concern. In fact, according to the organisation’s founder, Elizabeth O’Brien, the heavy metal that’s well known to be toxic when ingested, even in small doses, remains a very real health problem. But in June, the charity’s free service of 22 years did not have its funding renewed.

 

“It was just $115,000 a year,” says O’Brien. “But it allowed for a few paid staff to manage the 150 volunteers, and things like public liability insurance,” she says.

 

And it looks like those meagre funds will not be reinstated any time soon. Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt says of GLASS’s funding, “This was a decision made by the previous Government. Due to Labor’s financial mismanagement, we are not in a position to overturn their decision.” Read More

 

Efforts to stop lead poisoning could be at risk

By Liz Szabo, http://www.usatoday.com

Lead poisoning

Lead poisoning (Photo credit: firexbrat)

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

New technology tool to help in asbestos battle

By Peter Dinham, http://www.itwire.com

An Australian company has developed what it claims is a pioneering technology platform to help achieve the federal government’s agenda to rid the country of asbestos by 2030.

The company – Octfolio – has just launched its new Asbestos Information Management Software and website – http://www.octfolio.com – which it says is designed to aid in the battle to save lives against deadly asbestos exposure and estimated to save millions of dollars for asbestos stakeholders.

“Ultimately it’s all about an easier and efficient way to track, assess, remove and dispose of asbestos with a goal to saving lives, so we’ve created the Octfolio system to play a pivotal role in helping the Government achieve that outcome for future generations,” says Darren Anderson, Managing Director for the Octfolio company.
“Octfolio has developed the first and only fully integrated tool that will map, classify, quantify and enable the strategic cost effective removal of asbestos from workplaces and homes.

This technology offers everything from online training for asbestos assessors and removalists, and sharing medical research information, to encouraging safe storage and disposal at licensed facilities and even mechanisms for reporting illegal disposal sites.

“Plus there are many more community benefits including accessibility of the project data in situations such as natural disasters and recovery operations, and providing a way for the government and private sector to better inform the public in relation to asbestos and its safe removal.” Read More

 

The Government Shutdown’s effect on the EPA

US-EPA-Seal-EO11628

US-EPA-Seal-EO11628 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reposted from http://ieconnections.com

The shutdown of the federal government that began October 1 is affecting agencies and departments that deal with indoor environmental issues.

Now that the government has run out of money due to the failure to reach a budget agreement, federal agencies must decide which employees are “essential” and which ones can be furloughed for the duration of the budget impasse.

Ninety-four percent of the employees at the Environmental Protection Agency are being furloughed. This will suspend, for the time being, the agency’s ability to enforce its rules regarding lead-based paint, which require landlords to notify prospective tenants at rental units about potential hazards and contractors to be certified with respect to their knowledge of safe practices. Individuals should, of course, remain in compliance, as the agency will certainly reopen at some point.

But the head of the union that represents EPA employees issued a statement noting that some workers will remain on duty.

“Even today, some employees will continue to assist flood ravaged communities so that they can once again have clean, safe drinking water and fully functioning bathrooms,” the letter said. “They are helping these communities put the essentials in place so that they can begin to rebuild. But they will not have the support of their colleagues in the office, because they have been sent home to wait, wait for Congress to do its job and fund the government.” Read More