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.

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