Blog Archives

African Lead Mine Poisons Children

By Ben Barber,

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

Blood lead screenings offered near Exide plant

Posted by KABC-TV/DT,

Exide plantFree blood lead screenings are available for people who live, work or attend school near the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon.

Los Angeles County health officials made the screenings available Monday after excessive levels of lead were detected in recent emissions from the battery recycling plant. Elevated levels of lead were found in the yards of 39 homes around the plant.

“There are many sources of lead in our daily environment,” Director of Public Health Jonathan Fielding said. “However, it is clear that Exide Technologies has emitted unacceptably high levels of lead and other toxic chemicals into the surrounding communities for years.”

Exide recycles batteries and has been under close scrutiny by state and local regulators over the past year.

Residents from Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles have voiced concerns about their safety numerous times.

This is the latest in a string of problems surrounding the plant. In January, regional air quality officials sued Exide for $40 million, saying the plant exposed people to cancer-causing chemicals such as arsenic. Read More

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

By Lecia Bushak,

 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

Metal firm owner sentenced for lead exposure failures

By Regional News Network,

The owner of a Nottinghamshire alloy firm has been sentenced for failing to protect workers from the risks of lead poisoning after three employees became seriously ill.

They included Brook Northey, 28, of Mansfield, who required specialist treatment at the West Midlands Poisons Unit after working at LDB Light Alloys Ltd, owned by Mansfield businessman Laurence Brown.

He had been working with his two colleagues at the Boughton-based company making lead sheeting from molten lead. His job was to scrape off the solid impurities, or dross, in a crucible containing the molten lead and pour the excess into containers.

Mr Northey was hospitalised for three weeks in May 2011 and continued to receive treatment for over a year. He was also off work for a year and can never work with lead again.

Prior to being diagnosed with lead poisoning he had been admitted to hospital with renal problems.

A subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found conditions at Mr Brown’s company were so bad that a Prohibition Notice was served halting all work with immediate effect.

Nottingham Crown Court heard today (4 February) that extraction systems, personal protective equipment, respiratory protection, hygiene and rest facilities were all unsatisfactory, and that no air monitoring or medical surveillance was provided.

HSE also established that lunch breaks were taken in an old, lead-contaminated caravan with no running water. Water was collected in contaminated plastic milk cartons from a contaminated hand washing area in the workshop. Clothes worn for work were not removed before eating and drinking and there was no toilet facility at the factory.

Staff had not been told about the effects of lead or how to recognize the symptoms of over-exposure. Read More

Factory planned on South Side raises pollution fears

By Spencer Hunt,

A glass-recycling factory planned for the South Side has renewed many neighbors’ fears of pollution.

Phoenix-based Closed Loop Glass Solutions plans to build a new type of furnace and recycling system that promises to remove lead from old glass television tubes without sending the toxic metal into the air.

Closed Loop must emit less than 1 pound of lead per year, according to a permit approved by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

“We will be way under that in terms of our operations,” said Brent Benham, the company’s chief financial officer.

That promise has done little to mollify some South Side residents who say the area already is dominated by heavy industry.

“We don’t want to see a company that is in any way going to be emitting lead into the community,” said Eileen Neale, a member of the Alum Crest Acres Civic Community group and the Far South Columbus Area Commission. “We’re absolutely inundated with those kinds of facilities.” Read More


Millions of U.S. and Canadian Workers May be Exposed to Lead by Using Shop Towels

By Rachel Gross,

A peer-reviewed study conducted by Gradient, a nationally recognized environmental and risk sciences consulting firm, shows that U.S. and Canadian manufacturing workers who use laundered shop towels may be exposed to lead and other metals. The analysis, “Evaluation of Potential Exposure to Metals in Laundered Shop Towels,” was published in the October issue of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment.

Workers cannot see, smell, or feel heavy metal residue on laundered shop towels, so the risk is not apparent to the many workers who use the towels to wipe parts, spills, and their hands.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 12 million Americans, or nine percent of the workforce, are employed directly in manufacturing. In Canada, more than one million people work in manufacturing.

“The study adds to the growing body of data on potential health risks associated with using laundered shop towels in the workplace,” said Barbara Beck, Ph.D., DABT, FATS, and Principal at Gradient. “We continue to find a range of heavy metals on commercially laundered towels. Of particular interest is that exposures to lead may exceed certain health-based limits. Much as bacteria and viruses can spread through touch and be ingested, heavy metals on shop towels may also be transferred through touch to workers’ mouths and be swallowed.” Read More



EPA warns modernizing water system may boost levels of lead

WASA lead pipe replacement

WASA lead pipe replacement (Photo credit: IntangibleArts)


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



Study finds fault with lead-testing technique

Soil Samples with Lead

Soil Samples with Lead (Photo credit: PlaxcoLab)


By Jason Nadboy,


By examining deeper soil, researchers found past methods for measuring lead to be inaccurate


More soil lead contamination exists in Rhode Island than previously recorded by state lead examiners, according to a recent study by University researchers.


The study examined the lead-testing methods of the Rhode Island Department of Health and found previous methods literally did not dig deep enough — only examining surface soil samples when lead may be found deeper in the soil.


One source of lead contamination is paint coating water towers painted decades ago. The paint chips off, falls to the soil and is blown around by the wind.



When one such tower was replaced in 2003, contractors inspecting the site found areas surrounding the tower had soil containing lead by Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management standards, according to the study. Residents nearby were disgusted by the discovery of lead and hired their own contractors to determine just how much of the nearby soil was hazardous, using Rhode Island Department of Health standards instead.


Spurred to action, the state health department requested the Brown University Superfund Research Program look into the department’s standards for examining soil for lead. The researches found because the department only looked at surface soil samples, they missed the presence of lead lurking beneath the top layer and underestimated the level of contamination.


Soil samples from 31 properties were analyzed for lead concentrations. Four locations — comprising 13 percent of properties examined — were labeled “soil lead hazard,” according to the study.


The researchers took samples from the surface of the soil along with samples from both six inches and 12 inches below the surface, said Marcella Thompson, postdoctoral research associate in pathology and laboratory medicine, and the lead author of the study.


The researchers found certain properties to be misclassified in terms of their lead hazard. These locations were falsely classified because only the surface of these properties had been examined for lead, Thompson said.


Lead contained in deeper levels of soil can still serve as a source of exposure for humans. “If you’re thinking about planting a garden, lead can be taken by the plants,” said Kim Boekelheide, professor of medical science, pathology and laboratory medicine and an author of the study. Children also risk exposure when they play in contaminated dirt, he added.


According to Rhode Island Department of Health standards, lead­-free soil refers to soil with less than 150 milligrams of lead per kilogram of soil, as noted in the study. This can be confusing, especially to residents with no scientific background, Thompson said.


“The use of the terminology ‘lead­-free’ was not really lead free,” Thompson added.


After the study highlighted faults in the state health department’s lead testing techniques, the department has committed to tweaking standards, Thompson said. 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


Halloween Costume Related Health Hazards

By Janelle Cabuco,

Some makeup may contain toxic chemicals that can be easily absorbed into the skin (Vancouver Film School / Flickr Creative Commons).

Some makeup may contain toxic chemicals that can be easily absorbed into the skin (Vancouver Film School / Flickr Creative Commons).

Halloween is a time for shrieks of horror, thrills, and laughter. It calls for celebration and superstition, and most importantly, costumes!

Unfortunately, there are some hidden health hazards that come with dressing up for Halloween that most people don’t think about. Some are even scarier than the scariest of Halloween costumes.

According to a 2008 study in Science of the Total Environment, fake teeth and paints used as Halloween props run high risks of lead contamination, a neurotoxin. Many Halloween products such as Halloween themed drinking cups, candy buckets, and fake teeth have been found to have an excess of six percent more lead than the US regulatory limit.

Many other children’s products have been contaminated with lead over the years. In 2007, Toys “R” Us had two recalls in a single month because their children’s products surpassed the legal limit. This is definitely a cause for concern, considering that all of us who buy fake teeth do put them in our mouths. Lead enters the body the fastest when ingested. Read More