Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Is your Lead Safe Home Really Safe? Some home owners found out the answer may be NO

Superfund Site: Omaha, Nebraska

Citizens of a neighborhood in Omaha, Nebraska are taking action against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after a “safe home” located in the Superfund site gave the homeowner lead poisoning. Omaha was home to the American Smelting and Refining Company which, after dumping 4 tons a year of lead waste into the Missouri River, was forced to close for numerous environmental violations. The long-term contamination of the city resulted in 27 square miles around the old factory being designated as an EPA Superfund site in 1999. The area would now receive federal clean-up dollars but remains a problem to this day. The Superfund site received soil-remediation in 13,000 sites from 1999 to 2015. Each site was tested for soil levels above 400 parts per million, which was the threshold for action. Some areas had levels ranging from 1,809 to 3,437 ppm. One family, the Fisher’s, were among the sites that did not receive remediation because, at the time their home was tested in 2003, their soil level was 141 ppm. However, after starting a garden in their backyard, Maggie Fisher felt light-headed and sought medical attention; the diagnosis was lead poisoning. No matter how low of exposure, scientists and medical professionals now know that lead will cause permanently damaging effects if found at any level in the blood. Superfund sites are tested by the EPA every 5 years but with the Center for Disease Control creating new and more stringent standards for lead constantly, the levels for lead in soil to be eligible for remediation are consistently above the “safe” limit. The remediation process included soil removal and replacement of soil one foot into the ground and is replaced with new sod. Lead can still seep to the surface and be an exposure pathway when dug into. The city of Omaha did as much as they could since they can only authorize remediation for areas with ppm above the federal level. Along with help from Omaha’s lead office coordinator, citizens, like Maggie Fisher, are advocating for more change in their community and urging the attention from the EPA for more funds and assistance in the remediation of sites previously bypassed for remediation. This situation is not unique. There are Superfund sites scattered across the country and some are located here in Michigan as well. This tragic story helps remind us that adults and kids alike are susceptible to the impacts of lead. We need to be diligent and continue to work on lowering the permissible levels of lead in our environment to zero. For more information on the reports by Omaha local news, refer here: https://www.ketv.com/article/the-epa-cleaned-up-lead-in-her-neighborhood-years-ago-she-got-poisoned-this-summer/29763386

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Best Way to Protect You and Your Family from Lead is with Proper Prevention-- Learn How Here

In New York City and State, students and faculty of Columbia Law college published their research on how to protect children from lead and its hazards. Read below to see their key takeaways. Lead exposure in NY is the same here at home in Michigan and we can use this research to help protect our families as well!

Primary prevention techniques can be broken down into the following: Identify, Prevent, Adopt, and Protect.
  • The first step is to identify all current hazards and the main issue in the homes in New York like the ones in Michigan are from paint in pre-1978 homes. By locating these hazards and allocating funds-- in the case of NYC, requiring the landlords/homeowners to pay-- the contamination risk is already lowered.
  • Preventing other potential risks is made effective by state’s adopting RRP (Renovation, Repair, and Painting) programs. Only 12 states have adopted the program through the EPA with Michigan being one. The program requires inspectors to be certified in lead education and removal processes. In addition, they must recertify each year as standards and effective methods are ever-changing. Advocates in Michigan are working to run the RRP program here currently.
  • Adopting the RRP standards ensures that all parts of the prevention process are being followed. The EPA does not have lead prevention as its top priority which leaves the main effort to state and local governments.
  • Finally, to protect the rights of the homeowners, implementing home certification processes. The homeowner must have full-disclosure and should know the state of risk in any pre-1978 home, what said risks can do to the household, and be able to request inspections when risks are suspected. Homes that have gone through these steps should be documented in the cities system and a formal document should be provided to the homeowner. MIALSH is working toward requiring a lead inspection before the sale or transfer of a home here in Michigan.
Overall collaboration between local and state governments of lead issues affecting the community is imperative to promoting the importance of the issue. As many other environmental issues take the front burner for the EPA, attention, and pressure from local and state like advocates like we have in Michigan is necessary to produce meaningful and effective policies and keep lead on the front burner at EPA. Educating medical personnel will have a large effect on family education in areas where this is the greatest risk too. It takes a village to protect our families and these latest findings help confirm that empowering homeowners and renters, engaging medical professionals and working with advocates in all levels of state and local government is the key to success.

For entire research and analysis, follow here: https://www.law.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/microsites/clinics/health-advocacy/final_lead_poisoning_prevention_best_practices_report_october_2019_final.pdf

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

A Successful November Collaboration

On Friday, November 15th, the Michigan Environmental Council welcomed MIALSH for their in-person strategic planning meeting. It was a successful event filled with meaningful conversation and collaboration with many members of different expertise. It is so beneficial for MIALSH to have these perspectives to help motivate and guide their work for a healthier Michigan. 

We welcomed representatives from Mid Michigan, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Battle Creek, Grand Rapids and many other communities to help craft our MIALSH coalition 2020 policy priorities. A big thanks to the Department of Health and Human Service (DHHS) staff who gave us updates on the Lead Safe Home and Nurse case management programs including the numbers of families served so far this year.

We successfully nominated our top three policy priorities for 2020: requiring universal lead testing, pre-sale inspections of homes built pre-1978, and holding Michigan accountable for the federal RRP enforcement program.

Introduction 42:06
Organization Updates 44:20
Discuss/ Finalize Priorities 1:05:30 
Department Updates 2:06:40 
Michelle Twichell & Carin Speidel 2:11:00 
Parent & Family Engagement 2:54:00 
Paul Haan & Lyke Thompson 
Spring Date Discussion 3:19:00 

Attached is a link to the in-person meeting recording. I would like to apologize for its length and large file capacity. The following topics and times are provided for your convenience.
Current date options for MIALSH Lead Education Day in Spring 2020 are below. Do reach out with preferences and/or date concerns. Please save these dates in your calendar:
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
There will be no December meeting but do take this time to reflect on the conversations from the in-person meeting and finalizing the priorities. I provide these questions to consider until the January call: What is my number one policy priority for MIALSH in 2020? What can I do to incorporate these priorities in my everyday work? What will I be able to accomplish this week/month for this priority? 

We are excited for the year ahead and appreciative of our dedicated coalition members and partners as we work to end lead poisoning in Michigan. Wishing everyone a safe and festive holiday season with family and friends!

Friday, August 30, 2019

More than poisoning; lead leads to increase risk of Parkinson's Disease and ALS

It's been commonly known that lead exposure, especially in children, can lead to a decrease in overall IQ and learning potential. On top of the mental impacts, increased lead exposure can decrease a child's growth spurt and make them shorter than they are projected to be. That has been the common theme from lead exposure activists, to promote these two crucial effects of lead poisoning.

However, a recent study has crossed the age gap. Exposure to lead, at any age, has been linked to a 50% increase in a person's risk of developing Parkinson's Disease and ALS. This study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, looked at and compared multiple different studies that looked at the connection between lead and patients diagnosed with these diseases. The researchers also broke down the data and summarized the increase in patient diagnoses based on the reported numbers by physicians across the United States. This is what is called a meta-analysis, and is a common scientific tool used to find general trends in an overall population.

Meta-analysis looks at published data, and those are the numbers the researchers used when writing up their conclusions. Since this is the case, the authors call for more studies to find this increased risk of Parkinson's Disease and ALS from lead exposure in unpublished data to confirm their findings. This could confirm these findings, and potentially even increase the percentage risk.

New studies constantly come out linking exposure to lead to an increased risk of all kinds of diseases and health problems. Lead exposure is a public health crisis that demands constant attention from all different professional spheres. From the media who expose the issues to the public, onto the scholars that conduct the research to find solutions and put facts behind the observations. This study is one of many articles focused on addressing the growing but fixable problem of lead exposure in modern society. 

For more information on this study, here is the link: https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__cirrus.mail-2Dlist.com_leadnet_89225652.html&d=DwMFaQ&c=nE__W8dFE-shTxStwXtp0A&r=bFMt9l4A51D2s0jXkOwKCg&m=gqB86Za9gJ9SVivchI7t8ja75UX54hCzCSKTYADagKw&s=QKjpL5gmKQFD7dZZi815zvrSTQfuf_uL_XhhUClHoFw&e=

Monday, August 5, 2019

The Hard Numbers; Cleaning Up America's Lead Crisis

Hard Numbers; It Pays to Keep Lead Away

Why is it so expensive to clean up the lead contamination crisis in America? A recent report was published by a cabinet-level task force said it would cost $25 billion for 10 years to clean up all the lead in America's paint. It would cost up to $50 billion to clean up the lead pipes across the country. Soil contamination costs reach $10 billion for 10 years of work, but no one truly knows where exactly the contamination is so it could be more. 

For more stats, click here:  https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/6/12/18661193/lead-pipes-paint-flint-michigan-usa-cost-fix (move this to the bottom)What we do know is that hundreds of billions of dollars need to be spent to clean up all of the lead found in the paint and pipes around the nation. Billions more needs to be spent on cleaning up the contaminated soil that occurred from the lead-filled gasoline that has seeped into the soil decades earlier.

However investing in the cleanup of lead payoff in the long-term. Lead poisoning contributes to healthcare bills, increased crime rates, special education costs and reduced earnings over a life time.  Lead poisoning has also been linked to higher rates of teen pregnancy; reckless drinking and a decrease in children test scores in primary and secondary school.

This all may seem impossible and too expensive, but our children are our future and it is more cost effective and just, to make the investments we need to make to keep our kids safe and healthy.

Elevated Lead Levels Found in Rubber on Playground Equipment

Mulch Mania; Lead in Children’s Public Playground Surfaces

A recent Harvard study discovered that 28 playgrounds around Boston may be exposing children to unsafe levels of lead. The researchers also looked at the soil around the rubber surface and found high levels of lead in the surrounding mulch and sand.

Each playground tested had two forms of surface material; soil and rubber. On average the team found 66 micrograms of lead per gram of soil and 22 micrograms per gram of rubber. One soil sample "exceeded the 400-microgram limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency for play areas" and "nine playgrounds had a soil sample greater than 80 micrograms of lead per gram" of surface material. The team collected 85 samples

Rubber surfaces on playgrounds have been used in recent years to prevent injury. The mulch is seen as a way to use scrap tires and increase recycling rates.  Rubber mulch is also washable and sanitation is a selling point as well.  But this new research raising concerns about rubber mulch needs to be taken seriously. 

Families need to learn more about the potential risks of rubber mulch to their children and more studies need to be done to help validate these results in other communities.  Both public and residential spaces could have exposure to rubber mulch so the scope of the concern could be large.  Most importantly, we need to start holding our businesses and manufacturers accountable to know the risk of their products and not put families in harm’s way.  

For the CLPPP 2016 report: 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

A Bold Plan; Lead on the Center Stage of Julian Castro's 2020 Presidential Platform

As I have traveled around the country and tell people I am from the Flint area, their response has changed from not knowing where Flint is, to a comment relating to lead in the water. The lead that we released into our environment for decades through gasoline, paint, and pipes did not simply go away. It is still in our homes and in our soil. The Flint Water Crisis put a spotlight on the issue, and it is increasingly putting lead on the national stage. This momentum has resulted in one presidential candidate incorporating lead poisoning and prevention policies in his political platform.

Julian Castro recently released a plan that makes lead a priority. He calls for $5 billion per year for 10 years “to remediate lead in paint and soil and replace lead pipes in areas of highest need.” Although this amount does not meet the estimated $500 billion needed to eliminate lead, it is a step in the right direction on an often overlooked issue. Castro also plans to convene a Presidential Taskforce on lead to coordinate an interagency and intergovernmental response, endorses the Home Lead Safety Tax Credit Act, and updates standards for homes and public buildings.

In the wake of the Flint Water Crisis, Castro plans to improve prevention measures and our ability to respond. His plan does this by allowing federal funds to be used for a hybrid disaster, which is caused partially by nature and partially by humans. Blood testing of newborns and children up to age two would be expanded through healthcare and “as a requirement in government-financed healthcare programs.” These are just some of the steps Castro plans to take to address the damage being done by exposure to lead.

The lead poisoning that occurred in Flint was tragic, but the spotlight on lead has not only made Americans but national leaders more aware of the dangers of lead in our aging infrastructure and homes. National leadership is crucial in order for lead poisoning and prevention policies to reach all communities. Including lead policies in a presidential campaign is moving us in the right direction and may encourage other leaders to take a stronger stance as well. To read more about Julian Castro’s plan, follow the link below.


Written by Marc Jaruzel, Michigan Environmental Council intern and University of Michigan graduate student pursuing a Master of Public Policy