Skip to content

Lead Poisoning does not discriminate

March 18, 2013

No matter who you are or where you are from, your family is at risk for lead poisoning. Lead is prevalent in our environment from homes built prior to 1978 when lead-based paint was banned to soil, toys, food, cosmetics, or folk remedies–lead is everywhere. Check out this article in the Huffington Post about 2 families surprise and struggle through finding out their children have been poisoned.

EPA failing in tightening lead poisoning hazard standards?

March 14, 2013

Researchers have known for decades the harmful effects of lead on children. Yet despite years of research into the growing numbers of lead poisoned children and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s lowering of blood lead level threshold, the EPA has failed to revise key standards to protect children.

The Environmental Protection Agency has no current plans to revise key hazard standards thatprotect children from lead poisoning, despite calls for action from the agency’s own scientific advisers.

The result is that children will continue to be exposed to lead particles in house dust and yard soil at levels that can cause reduced intelligence, attention disorders and other health problems, because the EPA’s standards — set in 2001 — give a false sense of safety, scientists and child health advocates said.

“It’s outrageous we aren’t acting on what we know,” said Howard Mielke, a Tulane University soil contamination expert.

A year ago, the EPA’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee called for the agency’s “immediate and urgent attention” to several recommendations on lead poisoning issues, including revising lead dust standards.

Yet any change in the EPA’s lead standard for house dust, which is under agency review because of a 2009 citizen petition, appears to be years away and would likely face opposition from the home renovation and real estate industries, which have raised concerns in the past about increased costs, EPA records indicate.

The EPA told USA TODAY that no action is currently being taken to revise the soil hazard standard — which allows five times more lead in play areas than what modeling by the state of California shows is needed to protect children from losing 1 I.Q. point.

“EPA has a longstanding commitment to reducing childhood lead poisoning,” the agency said in a statement, calling the existing soil standard effective.

The EPA’s standards for dust and soil are widely used as safety benchmarks when older homes are inspected for lead paint residue and when yards and playgrounds have their soil tested for contamination. “They matter to consumers as a right-to-know issue: If you’re told your home is safe and in fact it’s not,” said Rebecca Morley of the National Center for Healthy Housing.

Read more here.

Lead and Academic Achievement

March 4, 2013

From Time.com

Lead exposure may be on the decline, but it’s still taking its toll on children’s performance in school.

Legal requirements to remove lead from gasoline, paint and other common products have led to decreases in lead exposure. But remnants of the metal remain, according to the latest study, and this legacy may be enough to affect children’s cognitive functions.

Lead poisoning is still a concern for American families, especially those living in urban areas where older housing materials remain sources of potential exposure. A nine-year study of over 367,000 Detroit children published in the American Chemical Society’s journal Environmental Science & Technology shows that blood levels of lead fluctuate with the seasons among kids, primarily due to dust they breath that is contaminated with lead.

While the primary sources of lead have been eliminated, the researchers report that cities still retain a “legacy” of the contamination in discarded water pipes or paint, and contaminated particles that are swept up from soil and into the air are causing an rise in blood lead levels in kids by anywhere from 11% to 14% during July through September as compared to January.

Continued exposure to lead can have detrimental effects on children’s development, according to a separate study published in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers reported that early childhood lead exposure was linked to low performance in math, science and reading in elementary and junior high students—even at exposure levels lower than the federal limit. “Despite a dramatic decline in blood lead concentrations, childhood lead poisoning continues to be the most important and preventable environmental problem among children and contributes significantly to the burden of childhood diseases,” the authors write.

In the study, the scientists studied blood lead levels in 21,281 kids who had been tested before age six between 1990 and 2008. They then compared these levels to their math, science and reading scores on the Michigan Education Assessment Program tests from 2008-2010. They found that high blood levels before age six was associated with low academic performance in grades 3, 5 and 8.

“In reality, there is no well-documented threshold for acceptable levels of lead in the body, and our research shows that in amounts as small as 2-5 micrograms per deciliter, children had significant cognitive impairment,” said study author Michael Elliott, a professor of biostatistics at the School of Public Health and a research professor at the Institute for Social Research, in a statement.

Recognizing the growing body of evidence linking lead exposure to behavioral and physical problems, in addition to cognitive impairments, in May 2012 the Centers for Disease Control adjusted the threshold for lead poisoning from 10 micrograms of lead per dL of blood to 5 mcirogm/dL or higher.

Both studies address the need for protecting children from lead exposure, and the higher risk for children living in cities. “As public health resources dwindle in cities and states, the focus on preventing and eliminating childhood lead poisoning is placed low on the public health and education agenda. This becomes increasingly problematic as a significant number of properties in heavily lead-polluted cities have been poorly maintained because of the national housing crisis,” the authors of the academic performance study write.

Understanding that children continue to be exposed to potentially harmful levels of lead, despite its elimination from its most common sources, should add a sense of urgency to continued efforts to address lead as a public health issue, and better focus intervention efforts to limit exposure.

 

Newark, NJ playground finally being dismantled despite knowledge of lead contamination from months ago…

February 21, 2013

From USAToday.com,

Terrell Homes public housingNewark public housing officials removed slides and other equipment today from a grassy playground area that tests five days ago showed was contaminated with hazardous levels of lead — and that regulators have known since May was located a few feet away from a former lead factory site.

Community advocates expressed outrage that the playground at the Terrell Homes public housing complex remained open until this morning — exposing children for months to hazardous levels of lead dust when they played in the area.

“I find it so incredible they have known about this for so long,” said Ana Baptista, environmental programs director for the Ironbound Community Corporation, an advocacy group for the neighborhood around the Terrell Homes. Baptista said she’s had repeated conversations with the Environmental Protection Agency about why the playground wasn’t fenced off or signs weren’t posted – first last fall and again Friday and over the weekend.

“I said this is going to be on you when residents ask you why you didn’t protect them,” she said. “Last week, it was good weather. … There were children on the playground, and it was disturbing because you want to go out there and scream, ‘Get off of this field.'” Baptista said that over the weekend, her organization contacted residents in the housing complex and tried to get the word out about the danger because “nobody put up a sign or a flier or anything.”

Friday afternoon, the EPA released results of soil tests the agency did at the playground in early December. The tests showed high levels of lead in the surface soil that children are most likely to get on their hands while playing — as much as 15 times the amount of lead the EPA considers hazardous for children’s play areas. The EPA said it didn’t have “validated” test results until Thursday night but did not respond to questions about how long the agency has had preliminary results indicating the playground is contaminated. The agency recommended Friday that Newark public housing officials “restrict” access to the playground because of the hazard, records show.

The EPA did the tests after USA TODAY last September questioned why regulators weren’t investigating the potential for lead contamination at the playground, given that it was just across the property line of the former site of Barth Smelting, which records indicate operated from about 1946 to about 1982, and maps show the site was a lead battery factory before then.

At the time, the EPA issued a statement saying it would test the soil at the playground “as a precaution” even though it “has no reason to believe at this time” that Barth Smelting contaminated the ground.

In response to USA TODAY’s “Ghost Factories” investigation of government failures to investigate dangers posed by long-closed lead factory sites, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection had examined the Barth Smelting site last spring. In a May 4 report to the EPA, the state said it confirmed that the lead factory had once operated at a property at 99 Chapel St. in Newark. Although the report noted that the Terrell Homes playground was next to the old factory, it said no further investigation was needed because the factory site itself was occupied by another business and the soil largely covered with cement — capping any contamination on that property. The EPA signed off on that conclusion, the records show, despite the potential for lead fallout from factory smokestacks to have crossed the property line.

Keith Kinard, executive director of the Newark Housing Authority, which runs the Terrell Homes, said he learned of the EPA’s soil test results Friday. He said the playground equipment was being dismantled Wednesday and a fence will be installed in the next 48 hours to keep children away from the grassy play area. He said staff will keep residents away from the contaminated area.

“Fortunately, it is 32 degrees outside, and residents are not generally looking to play on this strip of land,” Kinard said in an e-mail Wednesday.

Lead is a cumulative poison, and experts say there is no safe level of exposure. Children can suffer irreparable loss of intelligence and other health problems by regularly ingesting even a few tiny grains of lead particles when they put dust-covered hands or toys in their mouths.

“If it was your kid, would you have them play there for another day?” Baptista said she asked EPA staff.

The delays in protecting children from the contaminated playground also concerned the Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of GreenFaith, a New Jersey environmental justice organization. “They deserve a clean, healthy environment,” he said Friday.

The EPA plans to hold a community meeting in the coming weeks, and it plans additional soil testing in the area. In addition to finding contamination at the playground, tests showed dangerous levels of lead contamination in two yards at two nearby private homes, the agency said in documents released Friday.

Lead exposure still common despite drop in poisoning cases?

February 19, 2013

Ever since lead was banned in gasoline in 1976 and in household paint in 1978, many lead poisoning cases have since dropped. Scientific American reports,

But ongoing testing shows that even though the average concentration of lead in the American bloodstream has dropped by a factor of 10 since the late 1970s, the levels are still two orders of magnitude higher than natural human levels, which have been determined by studying skeletal remains of native Americans dating to before the industrial revolution.

Equally problematic, recent health studies have shown that exposure levels previously thought to be “safe” were too high. Scientists from various disciplines are advising the Environmental Protection Agency and health departments to lower the concentration deemed acceptable in the bloodstream, which today averages 1.3 micrograms per deciliter but can be much higher for many individuals. The change is warranted because the latest set of long-term tests done over decades has revealed that many of the health complications from lead arise even at low exposures. Higher levels are not necessary to instigate damage to the body or brain, Joel Schwartz of the Harvard School of Public Health told a somewhat surprised crowd on Feb. 16 here at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting. Excessive lead exposure correlates with a host of ills, including impaired cognition,attention deficit disorder and lower academic test scores for children, psychiatric disorders, and increased blood pressure, hypertension and arrhythmia.

Lead is also increasingly implicated in dementia in the elderly. As we age, our bones demineralize and release calcium (which is why calcium supplements are often recommended, especially for women). “But the bones also release lead,” which accumulates in our skeletons over a lifetime, Schwartz said. “We don’t know if the brain can adapt to the higher levels” of lead in the bloodstream, he said, calling for new research to find out.

The ramifications of lead exposure are financial as well, costing the U.S. about $209 billion a year, said Jessica Reyes, an economist at Amherst College. The bill includes everything from direct medical costs to a heightened need for special education classes and incarcerations for violent crime, which also correlates with higher lead exposure.

The ongoing trouble with lead exposure is not to be confused with lead poisoning, which has dropped significantly in developed countries, including the U.S. The latter condition is caused by acute exposure at high concentrations, which can occur from eating lead paint chips. But all the other problems “are more like chronic diseases that build over time,” said A. Russell Flegal of the University of California, Santa Cruz. “We need to start thinking about the risks in that way.”

Lead is still prevalent in our environment for many reasons. Because lead does not degrade, heavy emissions from the past accumulate in soil. Winds, especially during drought—like that afflicting the Midwest for the past year or so—kick it up as dust, and runoff from heavy rains and flooding can re-suspend the particles in the atmosphere. Trees take up soil particles, too, but when forests burn in wildfires, as has been occurring more frequently worldwide with global warming in recent years, that lead is released back into the air. Fires also release lead from old houses and buildings coated with lead paint that was applied prior to the U.S. ban. Lead smelting and refining is still an enormous industry worldwide, sending more of the metal into the environment. Aviation gas used in planes still contains lead.

Lead is still present in drinking water in many communities, where it can leach from lead pipes in homes, apartment buildings and municipal water system, or from brass fittings or solder used in plumbing. Another 25,000 to 30,000 tons of lead enters the U.S. environment each year from hunting and shooting-range ammunition, fishing-line weights, discarded batteries and electronic waste, said Mark Pokras at Tufts University.

Coal-burning power plants in developed nations also generate some lead in emissions and more so in ash, and the steep rise in coal power in China has boosted levels worldwide because regulations are more lax. Larger lead particles fall to the ground within about 200 meters of the source (including tailpipes, by the way), but the smaller particles, about 0.5 micron in size, can remain airborne for a week before they settle out. According to Flegal, lead particles from China have been found in rainfall in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Many steps can be taken nationwide to further reduce lead levels. Tougher emissions laws can be imposed. Lead paint, still sold in China, for example, can be banned in that country, or for import by other countries. Lead pipes and old lead paint can be removed. A high tax could be imposed on products containing lead, and lead in ammunition and fishing weights could be replaced with substitutes—although materials such as tungsten have not performed well in bullets. A different view about prevention is needed, too. For years, U.S. regulators have focused primarily on reducing lead poisoning, and they have succeeded. “So now we have to stop thinking about the problem as a small number of people who have an acute exposure, and start thinking about the problem as a large number of people who have a chronic exposure,” Schwartz said.

Cost analyses might help push regulators into action, Reyes said. “Perhaps we will find that an X-amount of reduction in lead exposure equates with an X-amount of rise in test scores” [which has been shown in Massachusetts], she said. “Or perhaps we will find that a certain amount of reduction equates with a certain reduction in health-care costs.”

Things you don’t know about lead…

January 29, 2013

From HealthWire.com check out these 8 interesting and scary facts about lead:

Americans,African descent,anxieties,facial expressions,headaches,migraines,overwhelmed,overworked,pains,people,stress,women,worried,healthcare1. Lead Exposure May Cause Schizophrenia

Researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health found that lead exposure can negatively affect the areas of the brain that are linked to schizophrenic behavior. [1]

2. Lead Poisoning Can Cause Erectile Dysfunction

Research conducted at Turkey’s Konya Research and Training Hospital found that chronic lead exposure was a factor responsible for increased frequency of erectile dysfunction. [2]

3. Lead Poisoning Can Unexpectedly Affect Pregnant Womenbooks,couches,cushions,expectant,expectant mothers,expecting,females,furnitures,healthcare,lounges,medicine,motherhood,mothers-to-be,people,photographs,pregnancies,pregnant,readings,reads,wicker,women

We all know lead poisoning is toxic and its horrible effect is multiplied when it affects pregnant women. That said, many pregnant women take extra precautions to avoid toxic metal exposure. But what if exposure happened years prior?

Lead may stay in the bones, immobilized, for decades and only mobilized when calcium needs increase during pregnancy. This leads to pregnant women and their unborn children being at a higher risk for complications from lead exposure, including anemia, high blood pressure, low birth weight, and developmental delays. This can be extremely frightening because the length in time between exposure and effect can make evaluation very difficult. [3]

animals,cats,childhood,cuddle,delights,fotolia,little girls,happiness,pets,tender4. Lead is Toxic to Animals

The focus on lead poisoning is not limited to humans. The Department of Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine reviewed 45 years worth of literature and found 70 incidences that involved cats. Symptoms of poisoning can be less apparent in animals and researchers warned that lead toxicosis may be an under recognized problem in felines. [4]

5. Lead is Toxic to People Who Eat Animals

Hunting is usually done with lead ammunition. While previously dismissed as an “unlikely source of lead exposure” researchers have more recently warned that lead bullets can fragment upon impact and particles can distribute, polluting the meat. This is a potential lead exposure risk for anyone who ingests the meat of wild game that was hunted with lead ammunition. [5]

This has been of particular concern in Greenland. Research has shown a close relationship between how often adults consume wild birds taken during hunting and measured levels of lead in blood. The situation is severe enough that lead shot is fingered as the primary source of lead exposure for persons in Greenland. [6]

6. Lead has Been Found in Children’s Toyshousehold,toys,wagons,wooden,dragging,wheels,babies

In 2003, the Deschutes County Health Department and the Oregon Department of Human Services reported a lead poisoning incident involving a boy who had swallowed a metal trinket that was sold in a vending machine. [7]

Additionally, the Department of Chemistry at Ashland University in Ohio found, when evaluating paint scraped off plastic jewelry items, lead limits to be in excess of regulatory limits. Furthermore, these were on items intended for children! Just another reason to avoid plastic junk. [8]

bananas,beans,carrots,cheeses,eggs,food groups,fruits,grains,grapes,iStockphoto,Malcom Romain,meats,milk,oranges,potatoes,produce,rice,vegetables,food and drink,healthy lifestyle,dieting7. Lead Can Significantly Contaminate Food

In 1996, a community in Chile was the subject of a massive lead poisoning incident caused by contamination of flour. Apparently, a grinding stone at the flour mill had been repaired with lead. Unfortunately, persons under six year of age at the time of exposure had a low IQ when 10 year follow up measurements were evaluated. [9]

8. Lead May Have Killed Beethoven

The Department of Psychiatry at the University of Ottawa conducted a toxicological analysis of Beethoven’s hair and discovered high lead levels. Lead was a common, albeit illegal, additive to wine during the 18th and 19th centuries. Researchers hypothesized Beethoven may have actually died due to a combination of liver cirrhosis, lead poisoning, and kidney failure, rather than the syphilis that is often cited. [10]

Learn about more health dangers associated with lead here.

More on lead poisoning and crime: A reduction in lead from gasoline linked to lower crime rates?

January 7, 2013

Researchers are currently comparing the correlation between fall in crime rates with the reduction in leaded gasoline.

The science fits, too: Many studies link lead intake with lower IQs, delayed development, and a propensity to commit crimes later in life. Of course millions of children who inhaled lead from car tailpipes between the 1940s and the 1970s didn’t become criminals, but those on the margin “were pushed over the edge from being merely slow or disruptive to becoming part of a nationwide epidemic of violent crime,” writes Drums. The clincher: Lead molecules still lurk in our soil and an estimated 16 million US houses. Cleaning them up would cost billions, but save far more in the long run, Drums writes: It “could turn out to be the cheapest, most effective crime prevention tool we have. And we could start doing it tomorrow.”

While the correlation is interesting and the science seems to fit, a question still remains: Why is lead to blame? Another source suggests,

High exposure to lead during childhood [is] linked to a permanent loss of gray matter in the prefrontal cortex—a part of the brain associated with aggression control as well as what psychologists call “executive functions”: emotional regulation, impulse control, attention, verbal reasoning, and mental flexibility.

Check out the article to learn more. What do you think about this new revelation?