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Articles Tagged with Lead

contaminated-tap-water-300x213Chicago has a lead problem that may rival the contamination in Flint, Michigan, according to The Guardian. The publication analyzed years of Chicago tap water tests (conducted for residents between 2016 – 2021) and discovered that 1 in 20 of the tests performed by the city showed lead levels at or above U.S. government limits. Out of 24,000 tests, 1000 had lead levels exceeding the federal standard of 15 ppb in drinking water. More than 30% of the tests had lead levels exceeding the FDA standard of 5 ppb lead for bottled water. This is extremely concerning because lead exposure is linked to a host of health effects.

Lead is a potent neurotoxin that can cause irreversible damage, which is why many health experts say there is no safe level of lead. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends lead levels under 1ppb to protect children whose brains are particularly susceptible to the metal. Even low levels of lead have been linked to lower IQ levels, behavioral disorders, and poor reading and math performance in children. In adults, low levels of lead can cause kidney problems and high blood pressure.

The size of the problem is much greater than Chicago’s current water testing shows, however, because most homes with lead service lines in the city have not even been tested yet. In fact, Chicago has an estimated 400,000 lead pipes supplying water to city homes, more than any other city in the country. This is partly because Chicago inexplicably kept a law– requiring lead pipes be used to connect homes to the city’s water system–on the books until 1986, years after most large cities had banned them.

baby-food-1-300x300Baby food has been facing some much-needed scrutiny lately. A recently released Congressional report disclosed that many top baby foods, both organic and non-organic, are contaminated with dangerous levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. This is especially concerning since both the World Health Organization and the FDA have concluded that these heavy metals pose a danger to human health, and to babies and children in particular.

The findings are the result of a year-long investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform into heavy metals in baby food. Launched after a 2019 study by Healthy Babies Bright Futures found toxic metals in 95% of the baby food they tested, the Congressional investigation asked top baby food companies to voluntarily produce information about their testing policies and test results. Four companies responded to this request: Gerber, Beech-Nut, Hain, and Nurture. The Hain products are labeled as ‘Earth’s Best Organic’ and the Nurture products are labeled as ‘HappyBABY’. Three other companies—Walmart, Sprout Organic, and Campbell–did not cooperate, according to the Congressional report.

The responses to the Congressional inquiry revealed a major problem: all of the companies had used ingredients containing heavy metals in their baby food. Not only that, but the companies had routinely ignored their own standards for toxic metals, continuing to sell tainted baby food to families. And most of the companies had failed to test their finished baby food products for toxic metals, despite an industry admission that testing only the ingredients might underestimate the amount of heavy metals in the finished product. Below are the some of the results included in the Congressional report. (Keep in mind that these numbers are from the companies’ own test results, not results from an independent lab.)

Flint Michigan.jpgMichigan’s Attorney General has criminally charged more than 50 people over the deplorable government behavior that stripped the families of Flint of their clean water from Lake Huron, and substituted dangerous, lead-contaminated water from the Flint River.

And now the Attorney General has just filed the most significant charges of all: he has charged the State’s Director of Health and Human Services (HHS) with felony manslaughter, and the State’s Chief Medical Executive with obstruction of justice. The HHS Director, when informed that the contaminated water might have led to an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease that ultimately took the life of an 85-year-old man, is shockingly alleged to have observed that, “everyone has to die of something”. And the Chief Medical Executive is alleged to have threatened to withhold funding from a community health organization if it did not stop searching for the source of the Legionnaire’s outbreak.

While criminal charges are obviously serious, and in all honesty very rare in environmental contamination cases, they are certainly warranted here, in my opinion, for these reasons:

blood-1761832_1920.jpgThe FDA has just issued a warning that certain tests for lead in blood drawn from patients’ veins since 2014 may have falsely assured those patients that they were not suffering from lead contamination when, in fact, they were. The suspect tests were those typically conducted in doctors’ offices, and using a testing method associated with a company known as Magellan Diagnostics.

In this very early stage of the FDA investigation, much is not clear, such as: how many patients are potentially affected, and why the suspect results seem confined to blood drawn from veins, and not via the typical finger-pricking method. Blood is typically drawn by doctors from patients’ veins only to confirm results obtained via finger-pricking which suggested an unacceptably high lead concentration in the blood. This, of course, raises the concern that patients whose doctors drew blood from their veins because of a concerning finger-prick test may actually have had dangerous levels of lead in their blood but received false assurance that there was no problem as a result of the faulty Magellan Diagnostics test.

Plainly, the stakes are very high here: Lead in the human body has been proven to cause a variety of serious health consequences, including developmental delays in young children. There is no safe level of lead in the human body, thus making the accuracy of testing for lead in blood, especially in children, vital.

glass-of-water-252x300.jpgYes. You read that correctly. First, the State of Michigan and the City of Flint took away Flint residents’ clean water. Then they substituted lead-contaminated water. Now, the City of Flint has just sent notices to 8,000 Flint residents threatening that, if the residents don’t pay for the lead-contaminated water, Flint may evict them from their homes. The government deliberately tries to hurt citizens, and then demands that they pay for the privilege. I don’t know whether this awful behavior is explained by (more) racism directed to the (mostly African American) residents of Flint, or by the most clueless and callous government bureaucracy imaginable. Or both. For the moment, anyway, it doesn’t matter. It needs to stop. And whoever had the idea to bill people for poisoned water needs to get fired.

And, let’s not forget, the people of Flint still need clean water. A court has recently approved a settlement that would provide new (non-lead-contaminated) pipes to deliver water to the residents. Wonderful. Now, the people in charge need to start treating the residents of Flint like the full-fledged human beings and Americans that they are and get the new pipes installed ASAP.

The City of Naperville has recently identified some 341 Naperville homes with lead water service lines. The City has yet to test 143 other homes that likewise may have lead service lines. Homes with lead service lines in Naperville would typically have been built before 1930-when the City outlawed lead in the service lines of newly-constructed homes. It is possible that some homes built after 1930, but before 1986, also have lead service lines, because, in 1986, lead in service lines was outlawed nationally. 1

If your Naperville home is identified as one having a lead service line, here’s what you need to know:

(1) Any concentration of lead in drinking water is dangerous, especially to children and pregnant women. The World Health Organization says that there is no safe level of lead. 2 At high levels of exposure, lead attacks the brain and central nervous system, potentially causing coma, convulsions, and possibly even death. Children who survive this level of lead poisoning may be left with mental retardation and behavioral disorders. At lower levels of exposure, lead affects children’s brain development resulting in reduced IQ, reduced attention span, increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational achievement. Lead exposure also causes anemia, hypertension, cardiovascular effects, nerve disorders, decreased kidney function, fertility problems, immunotoxicity, and toxicity to the reproductive organs. 3

Illinois legislators have an opportunity this fall to do something important and help to regain some of the public’s trust in government. They can pass a bill to test for lead in the drinking water at Illinois’ schools. (Yes, believe it or not, no such testing is currently required….as if we needed a reason to think even less of the state’s leadership.)

Last May, the Illinois Senate passed Senate Bill 550, sponsored by State Senator Heather Steans, (D – Chicago 7th), which, among other things, requires elementary schools in the state to test for high levels of lead in drinking fountains and sinks. Environmental groups, such as the Illinois Environmental Council are pushing for the House to pass the bill in their November Veto Session. 1

Some organizations are pushing back. The Illinois Association of School Administrators is asking who will pay for this, and the Illinois Municipal League, an advocacy group for local governments, opposes the bill because they don’t want municipalities to pay. 1

This is about how to send the right message to a company that is alleged to have willfully endangered the health of workers.

The company is Fraser Shipyard of Superior, Wisconsin. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has accused Fraser of exposing 190 welders and ship fabricators to toxic levels of some nasty chemicals, including lead, asbestos, arsenic, and hexavalent chromium. 75% of the workers tested had elevated levels of lead in their systems, including 14 who had lead levels up to 20 times the maximum allowable exposure. 1

It’s OSHA’s job to take this seriously. Because, as we have known for a long time, lead is a toxic chemical, and the health consequences of exposure to lead are quite serious.

Day after day these days, we see expressions of clueless bewilderment from government officials: “Why are the people so mad at us?” “Why do they hate us?”Why are they so anxious to throw us out of office?”

There are, of course, a thousand reasons, but none more revealing of what’s broken about our government than this: While every branch of our government-Executive, Congressional, Judicial-has been working overtime to deny basic environmental protections to American citizens, when these same officials are threatened by contamination in their environment, protection for them arrives swiftly and surely.

Cases in point:


A recent review of the Portland Parks and Recreation’s (PPR) handling of high levels of lead contamination in the drinking fountains at the Multnomah Arts Center concluded that the agency failed for years in its duty to protect citizens, especially kids, from the contamination. In a nutshell, the review found that PPR was aware since at least 2013 that lead levels in the water at several of the drinking fountains were unacceptably high, according to EPA standards, but ignored those results. The review also found other evidence of PPR’s shocking disregard of the health threats posed by the lead-contaminated water, including:

· PPR staff’s ignoring of a directive to replace lead plumbing;

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