Archives for category: Lead

From the Madison Capital Times:

When Republicans passed their far-reaching tort reform bill last year, they did away with the effects of a 2005 state Supreme Court ruling that made six paint manufacturers potentially responsible for a Milwaukee boy’s lead poisoning. Now, in a move that raises constitutional questions, Republicans want to apply the new court standards to cases already in court.

The proposal, Senate Bill 373, would invalidate so-called “risk contribution” theory by requiring plaintiffs in 173 pending cases to identify the producer of the paint that poisoned their children. The risk contribution theory, adopted by the high court, allowed the family of Steven Thomas to sue the paint companies even though the family couldn’t identify which company produced the paint that poisoned him.

The theory was not new. It was adopted by the state’s high court in 1984 in Collins vs. Eli Lilly, a case that dealt with the miscarriage-prevention drug diethylstilbestrol, which was linked to vaginal cancer.

In the Thomas case, the Supreme Court ruling did not decide it. It only allowed the lawsuit to proceed. If the companies lost, they would share a degree of liability for producing the paint.

Peter Earle represented Thomas and is the attorney for the 173 children in the current cases. On Thursday Earle said at a state Senate judiciary committee hearing that he’d never seen litigation that changed the rules in pending court cases, and for the benefit of specific litigants.

“It’s obnoxious. It’s onerous. It’s something that I would expect to happen in North Korea, not the United States of America,” he said.

The bill, introduced only last week, is moving at breakneck speed, getting a hastily scheduled public hearing on Thursday. Introduced by Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, the proposal also apparently has the blessing of Republican leadership. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has signed on as a co-sponsor.

“When a court does something that’s as outrageous as (the Thomas ruling), when they retroactively tell businesses that were producing paint in 1900 or 1910 that not only can you be liable for damages … but you have to be liable for any paint produced by any paint company in the United States in 1900, obviously you can’t operate commerce with that type of decision made,” Grothman said at the hearing.

Business interests were also enraged by the Thomas decision when it came out in 2005. In fact, they launched a successful electoral crusade to tilt the liberal court toward the conservative side. In 2008 the author of the Thomas decision, former Justice Louis Butler, lost his bid for reelection after business interests spent millions to back Michael Gableman, an obscure, conservative circuit court judge.

Grothman said Thursday that the pending lead paint cases were “filed at the last minute” to beat last year’s Feb. 1 enactment of the state’s “tort reform” bill, but Earle said he filed his cases before the law was even proposed, some as early as 2006.

Grothman didn’t restrict his comments to the bill. He questioned the notion, which has been well-documented over decades, that paint in the home can cause lead poisoning.

“Quite frankly, it’s scandalous that lawyers are leading people to believe that the lead paint in these houses is responsible for the increases in the (lead) levels in their blood,” he said.

Earle cited state health department statistics showing that Wisconsin is far above the national average in lead poisoning, and that the bulk of poisoning cases are concentrated in inner-city Milwaukee.

Earle, who showed up with several of the children he is representing who suffer from lead poisoning, said he was offended by Grothman’s comment.

“These children are born into socioeconomic situations that have every single burden that society can impose upon them imposed upon them,” he said. “And then what lead poisoning does is attacks the very gift that God gave them — their cognitive capacity, their ability to try to stand up and persevere over that.”

Earle also charged that the bill is an inside job, designed specifically to circumvent litigation in the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the cases are being litigated.

He said the parties were arguing the case on Jan. 9 and word that the bill had been drafted prompted the paint industry attorneys to cut arguments short. Two hours later, he said, Grothman sent out an email instructing the Legislative Reference Bureau to ready the bill.

“I believe it was put in the hopper so the six lead paint manufacturers had it in their back pocket, depending on how they saw the litigation in Chicago going,” Earle charged.

Grothman didn’t deny that the bill was designed to help the paint industry by eradicating the effects of the 2005 Supreme Court ruling.

Questioned by state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, about the origin of anonymous memos in the bill’s drafting documents that were incorporated in the bill, Grothman said he didn’t know where they came from.

“I’ve never seen it before,” Erpenbach said about the insertion of an anonymous memo in the drafting documents.

Critics say the bill could go much further than just protecting the paint industry.

“If you don’t like the court decision, why didn’t you just come in with a bill, a simple bill, that in effect repeals the court decision, rather than come up with a bill that may have serious, unintended results?” asked state Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison. “Because this affects not only the paint case; it affects other cases.”

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From the Associated Press:

For the first time in 20 years, a federal panel is urging the government to lower the threshold for lead poisoning in children.

If adopted, hundreds of thousands more children could be diagnosed with lead poisoning. Too much lead is harmful to developing brains and can mean a lower IQ.

Recent research persuaded panel members that children could be harmed from lead levels in their blood that are lower than the current standard, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

While the number of cases has been falling, health officials think as many as 250,000 children have the problem, many of those undiagnosed. The proposed change could take it to 450,000 cases.

Wednesday’s vote by the Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention would lower the definition of lead poisoning for young children from 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood to 5 micrograms. The CDC has accepted all of the panel’s recommendations in the past.

Lead — a metal that for years was common in paint and gasoline — can harm a child’s brain, kidneys and other organs. High levels in the blood can cause coma, convulsions and death. Lower levels can reduce intelligence, impair hearing and behavior and cause other problems.

Usually, the victims are children living in old homes that are dilapidated or under renovation, who pick up paint chips or dust and put it in their mouths. Lead has been banned in paint since 1978. Children have also picked up lead poisoning from soil contaminated by old leaded gasoline, and from dust tracked in from industrial worksites.

Lead poisoning is detected through a blood test, often when kids are toddlers. Most cases are handled by seeking out and removing the lead source, and monitoring the children to make sure lead levels stay down. A special treatment to remove lead and other heavy metals is used for very high levels.

But the problem has seemed to be diminishing, based on the old standard. In 2009, researchers reported that 1.4 percent of young children had elevated lead levels in their blood in 2004, the latest data available. That compares with almost 9 percent in 1988.

The lead poisoning threshold was last changed in 1991. The proposed level of 5 micrograms was calculated from the highest lead levels seen in a comprehensive annual U.S. health survey. The panel recommended that it be reassessed every four years.

“It’s a moving target,” said Perry Gottesfeld, co-chair of the group that came up with the advice.

Some groups celebrated the decision, saying medical evidence has been mounting that lower levels of lead poisoning can erode a child’s ability to learn and cause behavior problems.

“This is long overdue,” said Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, a Baltimore-based organization.

The recommendation might be difficult to implement. In many places, it’s up to city and county health departments to provide many of the services for lead poisoned kids, and those departments have lost more than 34,000 jobs in the last three years because of budget cuts. Meanwhile, Congress just slashed the CDC’s lead program from more than $30 million to $2 million.

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Image from Flickr.

From Consumer Reports:

Findings of a Consumer Reports investigation about arsenic and lead levels in apple juice and grape juice have prompted the organization to call for government standards to limit consumers’ exposure to these toxins.

The tests of 88 samples of apple juice and grape juice purchased in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut by Consumer Reports staffers found that 10 percent of those samples had total arsenic levels exceeding federal drinking-water standards of 10 parts per billion (ppb) and 25 percent had lead levels higher than the 5 ppb limit for bottled water set by the Food and Drug Administration. Most of the arsenic detected in our tests was the type called inorganic, which is a human carcinogen. For our complete test results download Consumer Reports Arsenic Test Results January 2012.pdf.

The investigation included an analysis of the National Center for Health Statistics’ National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) database from 2003 to 2008. The results of that analysis suggest that these juices may be an important contributor to dietary arsenic exposure. Through interviews with physicians and authors of peer-reviewed studies, Consumer Reports also found mounting scientific evidence suggesting that chronic exposure to arsenic and lead even at levels below federal standards for water can result in serious health problems, especially for those who are exposed in the womb or during early childhood. FDA data and other research reveal that arsenic has been detected at disturbing levels in other foods as well.

While federal limits exist for arsenic and lead levels in bottled and drinking water, no limits are defined for fruit juices, which a recent Consumer Reports’ poll of parents confirms are a mainstay of many children’s diets. The FDA says when a fruit juice sample has 23 ppb or more of total arsenic, it will retest the sample to determine how much of it is inorganic, because according to the agency’s 2008 hazard assessment, 23 ppb of inorganic arsenic would represent a potential health risk. But that 23 ppb “level of concern” is not a mandatory limit, nor is it based on arsenic’s well-established cancer risks.

A call for arsenic standards for juice

Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, believes the FDA’s “level of concern” is an inadequate reference point for establishing a protective limit for public health. Based on Consumer Reports’ test findings, Consumers Union is urging the FDA to set a more protective standard of 3 ppb for total arsenic and 5 ppb for lead in juice. Such standards are attainable: 41 percent of the samples Consumer Reports tested would meet both thresholds.

Consumers Union was encouraged by recent discussions with FDA officials and by an FDA letter to the consumer advocacy groups Food & Water Watch and Empire State Consumer Project indicating that the agency is considering setting guidance for the level of inorganic arsenic permissible in apple juice. The agency announced that its new initiatives include collecting and analyzing up to 90 samples of apple juice from retailers across the U.S. by the end of 2011 and analyzing levels of organic and inorganic arsenic in other types of juice as well.

Consumers Union believes that the FDA already has the data it needs to set juice standards, and that a guidance level must be followed by the establishment of a legally binding standard.

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From :

In an Arizona smelter town, people have endured decades of dirty air, disease — and bureaucratic dawdling. While the EPA and state regulators clash, citizens await relief. When it comes to toxic air pollution, help often arrives late.

From Environmental Health News:

Cumulative risk assessment posits that multiple agents work together to induce disease and that multiple stressors therefore must be considered in order to gain a true understanding of why adverse health effects occur.  Now a small but growing number of scientists are pushing the envelope by investigating whether chronic psychological stress might be one of those factors, enhancing a child’s vulnerability to certain chemical exposures and contributing to effects that later show up as asthma, neurodevelopmental disorders, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, and other problems. These researchers are also starting to identify biomarkers that may shed light on the mechanisms by which psychological stress acts on a child’s developing immune system and brain to modify or enhance the response to certain pollution exposures such as
traffic-related air pollutants and lead.

“We really don’t know how broadly such interactions may occur across chemicals. They are much more likely to occur when the chemical itself acts directly upon stress systems,” says Deborah Cory-Slechta, a professor of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry.

“We know some chemicals that interact with stress, such as lead exposure, but we don’t know which others do.”

Observations of links between stress and disease date back to at least the twelfth century, when the philosopher Maimonides cited emotional upset as a factor in asthma. But proving such links poses a significant challenge, says Malcolm P. Cutchin, a professor at the School of Medicine of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Much has been hypothesized about the linkages, but we are just now beginning to tease out relationships and understand the processes,” Cutchin says. As researchers have learned more about techniques that can identify chemical and stress exposures in the human body, they have begun to apply techniques to estimate how people respond to stress and how that response, if it goes awry, can facilitate the development of diseases.

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From

The Moapa River Indian Reservation, tribal home of the Moapa Band of Paiutes, sits about 30 miles north of Las Vegas and about 300 yards from the coal ash ponds and landfills of the Reid Gardner Power Station. Coal ash is the toxic ash and sludge left at the end of the coal burning process. It’s laced with arsenic, mercury, lead and other heavy metals. It’s the second largest waste stream in America and it’s currently unregulated.

If the conditions are just wrong, coal ash picks up from Reid Gardner and moves across the desert like a toxic sandstorm sending the local residents running for their homes. The reservation has lung, heart and thyroid disease rates that are abnormally high and the power plant is currently seeking to expand its coal ash storage capability.

The film An Ill Wind tells the Paiute Indians’ story.

View and interactive presentation of the story here.

Watch the complete film here.

And learn more about coal ash here

From Chicago Tribune:

Though Chicago and other cities have long reported that lead levels in their water meet federal standards, regulators and scientists worry testing methods used for two decades could significantly underestimate consumers’ exposure to the toxic metal.

Recent test results in Chicago may back up those fears: High lead levels were found in drinking water in seven of 38 Chicago homes tested by federal regulators this spring, according to records obtained by the Tribune.

“That’s not really good news,” said Marc Edwards, an environmental engineering professor at Virginia Tech who researches lead in water. The testing suggests lead in water could be a “significant human health concern,” he said.

Environmental Protection Agency officials are still analyzing the tests, but the results give credence to concerns voiced by advocates and scientists that lead could be an underestimated health risk in the nation’s drinking water, especially in older cities and suburbs where lead pipe and solder are common.

The results also speak to concerns that utilities can “miss” lead when testing water by using certain permitted techniques, such as flushing pipes the night before samples are taken.

“People don’t really know the extent of the problem,” said Jeffrey Griffiths, a physician who is chairman of a drinking water advisory board for the EPA and a professor of public health and medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine.

Under federal law, local utilities must test water in a relatively small sample of homes. If lead concentrations exceed 15 parts per billion in more than 10 percent of water samples, the utilities must alert residents and try to lower levels. The city of Chicago hasn’t exceeded the lead limit in nearly 20 years.

The allowable amount of lead was set in the 1990s and is based on a level utilities could feasibly meet. It is not a health-based standard, and many health and environment experts think the level allowed is too high.

Experts say there is no safe level of exposure to lead, which has been known to cause diminished IQs in children, even at low levels, and heart attacks and strokes in adults.

“What you really want is zero,” Griffiths said. “Four (parts per billion) is better than 15, but four is still four.”

Water rarely contains lead when it leaves treatment plants, but the heavy metal can leach into water while it sits in or flows through service lines that connect water mains to homes. Pipes and faucets inside homes also can contain lead, as can solder and brass parts used with plumbing materials.

Lead in water doesn’t smell or taste strange, so consumers would likely be alerted to the problem only if they have their water tested or if regulators discover the problem.

To prevent leaching, treatment plants add orthophosphate and other chemicals to water. A chemical reaction causes a white coating to form on the inside of pipes that is meant to stop lead from leaching into the water, but it isn’t always effective.

Water treatment is also complicated. For orthophosphate to protect against lead, the pH of water needs to be within a certain range. But if pH is too high in some water systems, calcium can build up, making valves like those on fire hydrants hard to open.

“You are kind of doing a balancing act,” said Miguel Del Toral, regulations manager for EPA Region 5’s Groundwater and Drinking Branch. “It’s not as simple as just make one change and you are fine.”

If high lead levels persist, a utility may have to replace lead service lines, although recent studies show partial pipe replacements can actually contribute to spikes in lead levels because they disturb lead rust that breaks off or leaches at a higher rate.

In Illinois, 52 water systems have been found to have high lead levels since 2008, according to a Tribune analysis of state records. Last November, New York City alerted residents after 14 percent of samples contained elevated lead levels.

Although the majority of water systems report that homes they test meet federal regulations, some experts think those results are due to outdated testing, government agencies gaming the system, or both.

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From KSDK:

A St. Louis City jury awarded $38.5 million to 16 people from Herculaneum who grew up near the town’s lead production plant.

The plaintiffs claimed they were exposed to dangerous lead levels from the smelter between 1986 and 1994. That $38.5 million verdict was for compensatory damages only. At 8 a.m. Friday morning, there will be a hearing about what the amount of the punitive damages should be.

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Watch the video after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

From Mercury News:

Santa Clara County supervisors this week passed what is believed to be the first law of its kind to ensure that electronic waste — computers and other electronic appliances — isn’t exported out of the country for recycling.

Due to low recycling costs overseas, recyclers have a financial incentive to export e-waste to developing countries where it can be broken down at lower cost. But unregulated recycling practices in those countries often have children breaking apart the devices and exposing themselves to lead, mercury and other toxic materials.

Because only the federal government can directly control international trade, the county ordinance approved Tuesday requires anyone who collects e-waste to bring it to a certified recycler. The recyclers must be certified by e-Steward, a program that seeks to prevent electronic waste from being shipped to poor countries.

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From Baltimore Sun:

Joe Pawley says he’s fighting to save his children’s future, and he’s feeling very alone right now.

During routine testing last summer, his 2-year-old son, Aaron, was found to have a dangerous level of lead in his blood, and city health workers found the toxic metal in the paint on the window sills, baseboards and walls of the Pawleys’ rowhouse in Southwest Baltimore.

The family sought help from the city Health Department to hire a contractor to remove or cover the deteriorating lead paint, which could cause lifelong learning and behavioral problems for their three young children. The agency has federal funds for such work. But their application was rejected, Pawley says, and he’s not sure why.

“If you can’t get the city to come out here and help out a homeowner or somebody who has lead, I think the city don’t really care,” he said, as Aaron and another son, 22-month-old Joshua, scampered about. A box of wet wipes sat on the television, for scrubbing his youngsters’ hands of any lead dust they might pick up and put in their mouths.

The Pawleys are one of hundreds of families in Baltimore struggling to protect young children from the lead paint that lurks in older homes. Over the years, the city has helped thousands like them, using tens of millions of dollars in federal funds. Its efforts put the city at the forefront of the nation’s campaign to reduce lead paint hazards.

But now, the federal tap has been shut off. Problems with the city’s program to treat lead paint in homes caused the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to declare the local health agency ineligible for new grants.

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Washington Post: Lead may be leaching into thousands of D.C. homes.

The water in almost 15,000 D.C. homes that received repairs during a massive effort to remove lead pipes may still be contaminated by dangerous levels of the metal, according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If those residences are home to small children, pregnant women or anyone with a compromised immune system, the water should be tested, said George Hawkins, general manager of D.C. Water.

The CDC concluded that homeowners who had pipes only partially replaced may have made the problem worse. The center also confirmed that children living in the District were exposed to an increased risk of lead poisoning from 2000 to 2006 as an inadvertent result of efforts to disinfect the water supply that caused lead pipes to corrode and leach into the water that flowed through them. More . . .

Discovery Channel: BPA may inhibit pregnancy.

Even as women choose to have babies later in life, more are having trouble conceiving, and the chemical BPA might be partly to blame, suggests a new study.

Mice that were exposed to tiny amounts of the common chemical in the womb and shortly after birth had no problems getting pregnant early in their reproductive lives, the study found. But the animals were less likely to get pregnant as they aged compared to animals that had not been exposed to BPA, and they gave birth to smaller litters as time wore on.

People come in contact with BPA, also known as bisphenol A, through cash register receipts, canned foods and beverages, hard plastic bottles, kitchenware, DVDs and many other sources. Just about all of us have BPA in our bodies, where it can interfere with the action of estrogen and other hormones.

That process, accumulating evidence suggests, might lead to all sorts of negative health consequences, including some cancers, behavioral issues, and developmental problems. More . . .

Agence France-Presse: Working with pesticides linked to dementia, study shows.

Long-term exposure to pesticides may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to a study released Thursday.

Workers “directly exposed” to bug and weed killers while toiling in the prestigious vineyards of Bordeaux, France were five times more likely to score less well on a battery of neurological tests than those with minimal or no exposure, the study found.

As revealing, this high-exposure group was twice as likely to register a significantly sharp drop in a key test — frequently used to diagnose dementia — repeated four years after the initial examination.

The drop “is particularly striking in view of the short duration of follow up and the relatively young age of the participants,” mostly in their late 40s or 50s, the authors said. More . . .

From Tampa Tribune: Lead in bags, other products result of global economy:

That’s the most likely reason why recent tests commissioned by The Tampa Tribune found elevated lead levels in elaborately decorated grocery bags sold at Winn-Dixie and Publix, according to executives in the promotional merchandise manufacturing industry.

Lead shouldn’t be in paint, and there are better alternatives. But making a newly popular item like reusable bags sometimes involves a dizzying array of subcontracting and handoffs stretching around the globe. And, too often, someone, somewhere will substitute cheaper, dangerous ingredients, like lead, to support their profit margins.

The same problems cropping up with bags echo troubles with other tainted products: Cadmium in drink cups sold at McDonald’s, toxins in household drywall, lead in children’s lunchboxes. Just Friday, the Food and Drug Administration warned of lead in hand-made pottery coming from Mexico.

Toxic metals are a problem that Wayne Greenberg has been warning his industry about for years, and he’s not altogether surprised lead would show up in some reusable bags.

“The whole issue is that there’s a bunch of suppliers who just want to have the cheapest bags,” said Greenberg, former chair of the Promotional Products Association International, and owner of the promotional gear company JB of Florida in Tampa. “They may not mean to increase the lead content … but they don’t know the difference between a 99-cent bag and a $1.29 bag is whether it was tested or not.”

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