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the authors call for more studies to find this increased risk of Parkinson's Disease and ALS from lead exposure in unpublished data to confirm their findings.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:

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: (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

Monday, July 1, 2019

Experts find rising lead levels in surrounding neighborhoods after Notre Dame fire

On April 15, 2019, the Notre Dame in Paris, France was ablaze. Emergency workers and experts were called in to contain the fire and work to preserve the art and relics stored inside the ancient cathedral. Only three workers suffered smoke-inhalation injuries, and the majority of the damage to the building from the fire was to the roof. The historic interior was preserved, as well as the two famous pipe organs that fill the city streets every Sunday morning. The world breathed a sigh of relief that no major damage had been caused, but they may have spoken too soon.

New data from government researchers showed that lead contaminates were released from the structure into the environment. The lead in the building came from the roofing material used in the cathedral, which released large amounts of lead dust into the atmosphere. For weeks after the fire, people living along the area thought that the lead risk was a "localized threat" but now it is believed to potentially affect areas far beyond the Ile de la Cite. After weeks of protests by local environmental groups such as Robin des Bois, local police officials confirmed lead contamination across all of the neighborhoods surrounding the towering cathedral.

People living in the affected areas were asked by the French government to wipe down the furniture in their homes, keep their windows closed, and filter their water as precautions to prevent lead poisoning. Since most of the lead went into the air from the blaze, local officials state that taking these steps can help people living in these areas to protect themselves. However, the effects of lead in the air can last for months and even years after the initial introduction. In fact, lead is an element that does not go away or dissipate. That's why some groups are calling the surrounding neighborhoods an "industrial wasteland".

The World Health Organization states that even a little lead is enough to make a negative impact on the development of children's behavior and IQ. In short, the fire at Notre Dame is significant and galvanizing for France but also for lead advocates worldwide.

The Notre Dame sustained heavy roof damage, spire damage, and interior damage after the accidental fire. The biggest damage, however, could quite possibly be to the children and people surrounding the cathedral. President Macaron has promised to rebuild the cathedral by the 2024 Summer Olympics held in Paris but has failed to come up with a plan to address this issue.

For more information about the details of this post: click here:

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

High Lead Exposures Cause Families to Evacuate Homes

Did you know it costs $5,000-$20,000 to remove lead from a home? Many residents don’t have this kind of money to eliminate lead hazards in their homes. In the alternative, moving and trying to find a lead-safe home may not be easy either. Relocation costs can restrict low-income families from moving to safer housing and may be hard to find. Keeping in mind that each case is different, the average relocation cost in Detroit is $2,000 per family and this includes application fees, first month’s rent, moving costs, and utility turn-on.

In Cleveland, Ohio, state grants are now available to families in need of financial help to relocate to lead safe homes. The grants up to $1,500 are centered on short term emergencies for low-income families with children or pregnant women. Prior to June of 2018, Ohio families could apply for assistance but had to show proof that they were being evicted. The requirements have changed and the county now accepts multiple forms of proof of need. This kind of program may be a good fit for Michigan families feeling trapped by a home with too high of costs to make lead safe.

Currently in Michigan, childhood lead poisoning is being addressed through a pilot program in Detroit. Mary Sue Schottenfels and her team from ClearCorps are spearheading this pilot. She will comment on the current Detroit pilot program where families are spending less money by relocating rather than abating their homes at an upcoming MIALSH monthly coalition call.

It is important to note that relocation is cheaper than abatement if there is safe housing to move families to in their communities. The average cost to lead abate a home in Michigan is $25,000 but in cities with larger housing, such as Detroit, it is much higher. The dollar amount depends on the number of windows, doors, corroded pipes, amount of siding, lead-based paint and increases the more square footage the house has. Although lead removal is expensive, these remedies are capable of lasting up to 20 years, yet need to be re-checked annually depending on which abatement activities were completed. Lead abatement may not be the solution for every family so we need to keep other alternatives on the table while trying to be frugal with our dollars. That is why the Detroit relocation pilot is so important.

For more information on the ongoing relocation pilot program in Detroit, check out this link:

Monday, April 1, 2019

2019 Lead Education Day Rocks the Capitol

Our 9th annual Lead Education Day at the Michigan State Capitol had another great turnout with over 100 participants RSVPd from all areas of Michigan. Our goal was to educate Legislators on the issues of lead poisoning in the state. Coordinated by the Michigan Alliance for Lead Safe Homes (MIALSH) and the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC), the day was filled with meaningful conversations with lawmakers, a keynote speaker, a parents’ perspective all in the historic Boji Tower, and many networking opportunities.

The event included 16 teams with a knowledgeable team leader as we met with at least 70 legislative offices.  Each group was purposefully organized to consist of diverse geography considering the experience of the individuals. Team members shared their knowledge with lawmakers and their staff on MIALSH policy priorities. Some of these topics included universal lead testing for all Michigan children aged one and two, finding dedicated funding, and lead-based paint inspections for properties built before 1978 intended for occupancy. Teams also provided all members of the State Senate and State House offices folders full of valuable articles on current lead poisoning and prevention findings and data.

Our annual Lead Education Day is a fun and purposeful way for the voices of engaged Michiganders to be heard by legislators. We hope to see our efforts prompt positive change and success around these critical issues of lead poisoning prevention and look forward to next year’s event!