Blog Archives

Testing Around Exide Plant Continues, Community Voices Frustration over Lack of Clarity in Results

By Sahra Sulaiman, http://la.streetsblog.org/exidmeeting

“I still don’t have a clear picture of what the results [of the lead testing in the Expanded Assessment Areas] are,” said a representative of Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard.

We were now nearly two hours into a community workshop explicitly intended to brief residents on the extent to which lead emissions from Exide Technologies’ secondary smelting operations may have contaminated properties found within the Expanded Assessment Areas (see explanation, at left). And a number of stakeholders had met one-on-one with representatives of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and L.A. County Department of Public Health (DPH) in the two hours prior to the meeting to get the specific results of testing done on their property.

Having tracked Exide’s many air quality standards violationsover the years and watched family members and friends suffer from the kinds of issues that run rampant in environmental justice (EJ) communities — asthma, cancer, developmental delays, etc. — residents were frustrated. Even as they celebrated the pending closure and dismantling of the battery recycler that they had battled for so long, they were still looking for definitive answers about what Exide had done to their community while it operated for 15 years under a temporary permit and with minimal oversight.

But the science doesn’t always comply with people’s wishes.

“[DTSC] can’t make sense of the data,” head of permitting Rizgar Ghazi acknowledged. “There is no defined pattern” to the contamination discovered. 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

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

The Lead Hazard In Schools That Won’t Go Away

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

leadmugsThe worn, heart-shaped rug that greeted you upon entering Angela Molloy Murphy’s preschool was a reflection of the love she has for the 17 children she cares for daily in her home’s remodeled basement.

To Tamara Rubin, however, the welcome mat was more of a warning sign.

“You need to throw this out,” Rubin told Murphy.

Rubin is executive director of the nonprofit Lead Safe America Foundation. On a visit to the preschool earlier this May, she pointed an X-ray fluorescence heavy-metal detector at the rug’s faded red threads and relayed the bad news: It was loaded with lead.

Within the course of an hour, Murphy learned just how pervasive the toxic heavy metal was in her home and school: It was in the chips of lead paint on her deck steps, in dust rubbed free from door and window frames, in the glazes on her students’ thrift-store mugs. The rug itself, Rubin suggested, was likely a reservoir for lead chips and dust tracked around on students’ shoes.

As students return to the classroom this fall, experts and advocates are warning of the overlooked health hazard plaguing daycares, preschools and elementary schools across the country.

Lead has been a popular paint additive for centuries. It speeds up drying and increases durability, as its makers once boasted in their marketing materials. But as a judge ruled in a high-profile case in California last December, lead paint manufacturers spent much of the 1900s deceiving the public with another claim: That their product was safe, even for young children, despite a long history of evidence suggesting otherwise. Ben Franklin wrote of lead’s “mischievous” effects in 1786, and one lead-paint maker admitted in aninternal company memo in 1900 that “any paint is poisonous in proportion to the percentage of lead contained in it.”

The science remains clear that anyone can be affected by lead exposure, and that children under the age of 6 face the greatest risk. And as lead exposure is linked to a growing list of health conditions, researchers are finding that it takes less and less lead to put one at risk. Read more

Could lead exposure increase likelihood of teen pregnancy?

By Lois M. Collins, Deseret News

Here’s another possible reason to reduce exposure to toxic materials: While national experts hail better choices as a reason for lower teen pregnancy rates, some research indicates that efforts to reduce youthful exposure to lead may have helped, as well.

In a paper just released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, an associate professor of economics at Amherst College, makes the case that reducing the amount of lead in teens’ blood reduces the likelihood of pregnancy by age 17 — and offers even greater reduction in the chance a teenager will be pregnant by age 19.

Her analysis, Reyes wrote, “indicates that higher childhood lead exposure is associated with substantial adverse behavioral consequences from childhood through young adulthood.” Among the behavior problems are teen pregnancy, teenage aggressive behavior and teenage criminal behavior. … “This evidence suggests that, by increasing aggression and other behavior problems, even moderate exposure to lead in early childhood can have substantial and persistent adverse effects on individual behavior.”

Concerted efforts to reduce exposure to lead, including The Lead Contamination and Control Act of 1988 and phasing out of gasoline as part of the later Clean Air Act, have coincided with reductions in teen births (down one-fifth in the 1990s) and teen crime (down one-third), according to Reyes’ analysis.

“The forgoing results suggest that lead — and other environmental toxicants that impair behavior — may be missing links in social scientists’ explanation of social behavior,” Reyes wrote. “Social problems may be, to some degree, rooted in environmental problems. As a consequence, environmental or public health policy aimed at reducing exposure to environmental toxicants may be effective in reducing the social and economic costs associated with child behavior problems, teen pregnancy, aggression and crime.” Read more

High lead levels an issue for backyard chickens, soil

Eggs

Eggs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

By Mary Flaherty, http://www.berkeleyside.com

 

Last month a local veterinarian had a Berkeley client bring in a very sick chicken.

 

“It was almost dead,” said Dr. Lee Prutton, of the Abbey Pet Hospital in El Cerrito. Prutton said he put the chicken to sleep and, wondering if it had a contagious disease, sent the body to the state lab for testing. The results: heavy metal poisoning, mainly lead.

 

The vet is now concerned that people are raising chickens in lead-contaminated urban soils, unaware that the lead can enter the chickens’ eggs that we eat.

 

Lead poisoning can cause brain damage, miscarriage, high blood pressure and learning and behavior problems, and is especially problematic for growing children, according to the Alameda County Healthy Homes Department.

 

Last October, the New York Times reported that “…a New York State Health Department study show(ed) that more than half the eggs tested from chickens kept in community gardens in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens had detectable levels of lead, unlike store-bought counterparts.”

 

A study in the 2003 Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation confirms the transmission of lead from a chicken to its eggs.  According to ‘Lead Contamination of Chicken Eggs and Tissues from a Small Farm Flock,’ “The data show a strong positive correlation between (chickens’) blood lead and the concentration of lead in the yolk of eggs… Eggs and chicken tissues containing significant concentrations of lead are a potential human health hazard, especially to young children.”

 

In Berkeley, backyard chicken keeping is on the rise, but how many chickens are out there is unknown, since licenses are not required. At the Urban Farm Store at BioFuel Oasis on Sacramento and Ashby, a clerk says they sell about 20 bags of chicken feed a day. She estimated at least 500 households in town are raising chickens.

 

So lead in the soil is something those chicken owners need to know about. It’s also a concern for backyard gardeners, of course.

 

But Daniel Miller, executive director of Spiral Gardens, the community garden on Sacramento Street, cautioned about being too worried. “It is something we need to be educated and concerned about, but not something to be alarmist about.”

 

Lead, more than the low, naturally occurring amounts, is all around us in an urban setting, Miller said. The question, he said, is, how much, and how to remediate it.

 

Read More

 

 

 

Magellan gets U.S. approval for lead poisoning test

By John Larrabee, http://www.bizjournals.com

More children will likely be tested for lead poisoning, thanks to a new clinical testing system recently developed by Magellan Diagnostics Inc., a life science company based in Billerica, Mass.

The new LeadCare Ultra Systems can test six blood samples at a time, and up to 90 in an hour.

The new LeadCare Ultra Systems can test six blood samples at a time, and up to 90 in an hour.

The company announced Monday they have received FDA approval to market the new device, dubbed LeadCare Ultra. According to company president Amy Winslow, it will make testing easier and less expensive, and could be in hospital laboratories as early as next month, she added.

“We believe there are a lot of children who should be lead tested, but aren’t,” Winslow said. “This will help people get the testing they need.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, over half a million children in the U.S. have elevated blood lead levels, which can impair cognition, reduce IQ, and cause attention-deficit disorder. A blood test is the only way to identify an exposed child.

Magellan Diagnostics first developed the testing technology in the ’90s, for use in a portable device they also manufacture. The new LeadCare Ultra Systems makes laboratory testing more efficient. Until now, technicians tested samples one at a time; with the new device they can test six at a time, and up to 90 in an hour.

“It’s based on an electro-chemical technique we’ve used with our portable system since the 2005,” Winslow said. “It’s called anodic stripping voltammetry. A testing strip with a gold cathodic is inserted into an analyzer. By using an electric impulse, lead is collected on the gold. By rapidly switching the current from negative to positive, you can collect and measure the lead.” Read More