Monday, April 30, 2007

Where Did The Lead In Children Come From?

A question recently posed to me. "What can the lead paint companies (Sherwin Williams (SHW),and NL Industries (NL), do to preserve their image during these trials?"

In an word, attack. Punching bags get beat up. Go on offense and educate the public.

Three lead paint Facts the public is unaware of:

  • Master painters demanded lead-based paint, and government experts described it as the “best choice for house owners,” because it was washable and durable.
  • Federal and state governments recommended, and often specified its use – in the 1920s, the 1930s and all the way to the 1970s.
  • No U.S. public health official or government – federal, state or local –advocated restricting the use of lead in house paint until 1949, when public health investigations in Baltimore first identified the risks to children from chipping and peeling lead paint in poorly maintained homes. The federal government did not ban the use of lead-based house paint until the 1970s.

Lead Paint Was Recommended By US State & Fed Government- The Same Gov't Now Suing Them For It's Production:

The U.S. Departments of Commerce, Interior and Agriculture, along with other federal and state agencies, recommended lead paint for its durability from the early 1900s through the late 1970s. Fifty of the public housing projects built by President Roosevelt's Public Works Administration in the mid-1930s specified use of interior lead-based paint to obtain the durability government paint experts found was best provided by such paint. “Public Housing,” “Unit Plans,” and “U.S. Housing Projects,” The Architectural Forum, 345-424 (May 1938). In 1939, the U.S. Forest Service said that lead paint is “the best choice for house owners who wish to allow very long intervals, longer than the durability of any other white or tinted paint, to elapse between jobs." U.S. Forest Service, “Shopping For Paint,”Consumer’s Guide, Vol. 5, No. 16, at 6 (Feb. 13, 1939). In 1944, the War Production Board resisted the decrease of the amount of lead in paint.

“As a result of these formulation changes, the actual basic carbonate of white lead content of paints is already at an irreducible minimum. And any further reductions in the lead content could only be made at the expense of durability.”

In a 1945, Percy Walker, the chief of the Chemistry Division, and Eugene Hickson of the National Bureau of Standards, presented recommendations as to the use of painting materials to meet federal specifications. The manual stated:

“White lead, a component of almost all white and light-colored paints, is one of the most important white paint pigments.”

In 1933, the American Public Health Association wrote a publication responding to reports of childhood lead poisoning. The association recommended not using lead-based paint on baby toys, beds and carriages. However, it also said it otherwise had wide fields of usefulness like house paint:

“Although lead paint has many wide fields of usefulness, babies’ toys, beds and carriages are not the places to put it.”

The great majority of interior lead-based paint was applied before 1930. By 1940, very little lead pigment was being used for interior residences

Sherwin-Williams (SHW ) stopped producing lead pigmented paint in 1947, a full 30 years before it was banned!!

Beginning in the 1920s, industry sponsored no-strings attached research into risks from lead paint and worked with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Standards Association and other public health groups to develop a voluntary national standard to take most of the lead out of interior paint in 1955, long before the federal government required it. In fact, one of the State’s expert witnesses in Rhode Island – Dr. David Rosner – testified that the industry never hid scientific studies about the risks of lead paint from the public, the government or public health officials.

Only 12% of Children Are Even Tested for Lead:

How can we have a "public nuisance" that is so irrelevant that Dr's and parents only have 120 in 1000 children tested for it and of those 120 children, only 1 of them even test positive for elevated levels? That is "elevated", not dangerous. Of the 23.3 million children under 72 months in the US in 2005, only 2.9 million of them were even tested for lead in their blood. Of those, only 1.5% tested positive for lead in their blood. The question then needs to be asked: Where did the lead come from? Since there is no way to prove the source unless the possible contacts and sickness are immediately correlated, lead paint defendants need to show other source of possible lead paint exposure. If it is not the improperly maintained paint that is making people sick, then the paint can not be construed a "public nuisance" can it? Other proven sources of lead poisoning in children

From the CDC website:

The potential for children to be exposed to lead from candy imported from Mexico has prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue warnings on the availability of lead-contaminated candy and to develop tighter guidelines for manufacturers, importers, and distributors of imported candy. Lead has been found in some consumer candies imported from Mexico. Certain candy ingredients such as chili powder and tamarind may be a source of lead exposure. Lead sometimes gets into the candy when processes such as drying, storing, and grinding the ingredients are done improperly. Also, lead has been found in the wrappers of some imported candies. The ink of these plastic or paper wrappers may contain lead that leaches into the candy.

Lead has been found in some traditional (folk) medicines used by East Indian, Indian, Middle Eastern, West Asian, and Hispanic cultures. Traditional medicines can contain herbs, minerals, metals, or animal products. Lead and other heavy metals are put into certain folk medicines on purpose because these metals are thought to be useful in treating some ailments. Sometimes lead accidentally gets into the folk medicine during grinding, coloring, or other methods of preparation. People selling a remedy may not know whether it contains lead. You cannot tell by looking at or tasting a medicine whether it contains lead. Consuming even small amounts of lead can be harmful. There is no safe blood lead level. Lead poisoning from folk remedies can cause illness and even death. Lead has been found in powders and tablets given for arthritis, infertility, upset stomach, menstrual cramps, colic and other illnesses. Greta and Azarcon (also known as alarcon, coral, luiga, maria luisa, or rueda) are Hispanic traditional remedies taken for an upset stomach (empacho), constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, and used on teething babies. Greta and Azarcon are both fine orange powders that have a lead content as high as 90%. Ghasard, an Indian folk remedy, has also been found to contain lead. It is a brown powder used as a tonic. Ba-baw-san is a Chinese herbal remedy that contains lead. It is used to treat colic pain or to pacify young children.

If swallowed or put in the mouth, lead jewelry is hazardous to children. In 2003, a 4-year-old child swallowed a piece of jewelry bought from a vending machine. The child became ill because the jewelry was made of lead. The potential for children to be exposed to lead from this source caused the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to issue on July 8, 2004, a recall of 150 million pieces of metal toy jewelry sold widely in vending machines. In 2006, there was a death of a child from acute lead poisoning after ingestion of a heart-shaped metallic charm containing lead. The charm had been attached to a metal bracelet provided as a free gift with the purchase of shoes manufactured by Reebok International Ltd. On March 23, 2006, a voluntary recall of 300,000 heart-shaped charm bracelets was announced by CPSC and Reebok

Other Proven Lead Hazards That Have Nothing To Do With Paint:

  • Drinking water. Your home might have plumbing with lead or lead solder. Call your local health department or water supplier to find out about testing your water. You cannot see, smell, or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid of lead. If you think your plumbing might have lead in it:
    • Use only cold water for drinking and cooking.
    • Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking it, especially if you have not used your water for a few hours.
  • The job. If you work with lead, you could bring it home on your hands or clothes. Shower and change clothes before coming home. Launder your work clothes separately from the rest of your family's clothes.
  • Old painted toys and furniture.
  • Food and liquids stored in lead crystal or lead-glazed pottery or porcelain.
  • Lead smelters or other industries that release lead into the air.
  • Hobbies that use lead, such as making pottery or stained glass, or refinishing furniture
  • In 1979, cars released 94.6 million kilograms (kg; 1 kg equals 2.2 pounds) of lead into the air in the United States. In 1989, when the use of lead was limited but not banned, cars released only 2.2 million kg to the air." "lead was banned for use in gasoline for transportation beginning January 1, 1996.
  • The potential for exposure to lead in canned food from lead-soldered containers is greatly reduced because the content of lead in canned foods has decreased 87% from 1980 to 1988.
  • Lead may also be released from soldered joints in kettles used to boil water for beverages. "The domestic use pattern for lead in 1990 was as follows: lead-acid storage batteries, used for motor vehicles, motive power, and emergency back-up power, accounted for 80% of total lead consumption; ammunition, bearing metals, brass and bronze, cable covering, extruded products, sheet lead, and solder represented 12.4%; the remaining 7.6% was used for ceramics, type metal, ballast or weights, tubes or containers, oxides, and gasoline additives (USDOC 1992)."

From a Lead Inspector:

I’m a service provider in environmental health and safety. I go out to collect the samples, and train other inspectors to detect the danger. In what follows I will describe about nature of the threat from lead.

From my perspective in science and measurement, there are many sources of lead in the environment. So although we focus on lead paint in housing, let’s not lose sight of the big picture. When I think of lead exposure, I think of a lot of sources, with houses being possibly one of them. But also there are major exposures to lead in industrial areas. If any of you drive along Interstate 95, you will pass by or under bridges, water towers, various steel structures with lead paint on them. In fact, when we go out and do air monitoring and soil testing, our worst readings are not in housing at all. It’s when we go out on a bridge painting or repair project that see sky-high exposure. Also, I spent six years in ship-building and overhaul, and in that industry—due to the small confined spaces and compartments six-decks down—there are major exposures to lead.

At A Bridge Construction Site:

I pointed out that each bridge would have a dumpster full of the contaminated abrasive, and what the benefit was to the public health of removing it. The EPA staffer said, “You got a darned good point.” But when I asked him if he could change the regulation, he said, “I can’t do that. Lead-removal is the state’s job.” And yet, the state says that they will do it if the federal people make them do it. This has really been a challenge, to get different state transportation departments granted EPA waivers.

Homeowners Responsibility?
Home ownership carries with it responsibilities as well as rights, including the duty to maintain property in safe and habitable condition. Rental property owners properly are held accountable when they endanger children by failing to control lead hazards. Lead paint, when properly maintained is perfectly safe. Our homes are filled with substances that when improperly maintained, can be lethal (gasoline, oil turpentine, bleach, Draino, chemical cleaners, prescription meds). Lead paint is no different. In Providence,. a recent study from Brown University suggests that the vast majority of houses in Providence coated in lead paint are owned by just 204 landlords. The control of the hazard lies with the owner of the property.

Who's Lead Paint?
There is no way to tell who manufactured the paint on the walls of an apartment that is poisoning a child. A Duke law professor and former solicitor general under President Bill Clinton has repeatedly testified that any attempt to hold manufacturers liable for paint sold even 100 years ago—when we can’t identify what pigment and what paint is causing the harm—would violate the due-process clause of the United States Constitution.

States Could Enforce Existing Laws:
Almost all states have law requiring landlord to rid premises of lead where children can get to it. These lasw are not enforced though. Fortunately that’s not the case in Maryland, where the city and state have begun to prosecute offending landlords. Since the year 2000, the state Department of the Environment and the Baltimore Health Department have taken 500 enforcement actions against landlords, including fines and renovation orders. Owners have finally begun sloughing lead from windows, doors and walls.During the same period, the number of children statewide who tested positive for elevated lead dropped from 3,900 to 3,400. The trim line is very positive. That suggests to me where communities need to be headed in order to deal with this problem.

The lead paint defendants need to educate the public about these still present dangers in everyday life regarding lead. Many of those who appear to care most about these children are pursuing dead ends, playing the blame game (See RI AG Patrick Lynch). Yet we know how to solve the problem at a cost that, if not trivial, is certainly less expensive than the road through the court system, with all its hidden toll-booths.If we don’t solve the problem by statute, we will live through a litigation nightmare, and the children will not be winners. But if we do pass the right laws, and enforce them, we will have much as a country to be proud of. Perhaps eliminating childhood lead poison might not rank right up there with eliminating smallpox, as we thought we had done twenty years ago. But what a feat it would be to eliminate this poison from the lives of those children who are already at greatest disadvantage.

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