November 2012

Abandoned trailer, Mississippi River, Near Dow Chemical Plant, Plaquemine, LA, 1998. From Petrochemical America, photographs by Richard Misrach, Ecological Atlas by Kate Orff (Aperture 2012).

Toxic Cloud of Vinyl Chloride

Print

This morning near Philadelphia, PA there was a serious vinyl chloride train derailment, which sent a toxic cloud of vinyl chloride into the community.

View the slideshow of photos to see the vinyl chloride cloud at http://www.philly.com/philly/gallery/Train_derails_in_Paulsboro.html?viewGallery=y

According to Breaking News Desk (11/30/12),”a freight train derailed this morning in Paulsboro, Gloucester County, with some of the cars leaking hazardous vinyl chloride into the air and nearby waterways. A railroad bridge over Mantua Creek apparently collapsed, sending a couple of railcars into the the water, and toppling several others.

More than a dozen people at a local marine terminal reportedly had breathing problems, necessitating medical treatment, according to reports. ‘We have a half-mile area evacuated around the bridge,’ said a Coast Guard spokeswoman, who added that no fatalities had been reported. Paulsboro’s three schools were also in lockdown…

Short-term exposure to the hazardous, flammable gas, which has a sickly, sweet smell, can cause dizziness, drowsiness and headaches, according to the EPA. Long-term exposure has been linked to cancer.”

SONY DSC

100 People Removed At Fracking Waste Well Meeting

Print

Ohio officers escorted about 100 people out of an information session on a proposed “fracking” waste well last night after the crowd tried to take over the Ohio Department of Natural Resources open house and turn it into a public hearing.  More than 100 people — including the owner of the land where the well is located — had written Ohio Department Natural Resources  requesting a public hearing but the state decided to hold an open house instead. Read more from The Columbus Dispatch James Phillips.

University of Maryland

First Annual Symposium on Environmental Justice and Health Disparities in Maryland and DC

Print

The Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health and the Community Engagement, Environmental Justice and Health (CEEJH) lab are pleased to announce “First Annual Symposium on Environmental Justice and Environmental Health Disparities in Maryland and Washington, DC”. The Symposium will be held on Saturday December 1, 2012, 9:00-AM to 4:00-PM; at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union Building at University of Maryland, College Park, MD.

This symposium will serve as a forum for the exchange of ideas among community members, researchers, public health practitioners, policymakers, students, and advocates on environmental justice issues and health disparities the region. The goal of this symposium is to establish and sustain a community engaged research enterprise on critical environmental health disparities and environmental justice issues, to raise the visibility of racial and ethnic environmental health disparities and feasible solutions with Marylanders, DC residents, and regional stakeholders, and facilitate action for change. In addition, this meeting will focus on intergenerational leadership development on environmental justice and health issues with a series of activities for youth from the region. A major outcome of this meeting is seeding the establishment of a community-driven regional environmental justice network.

This meeting is being sponsored by Hoff Funding Board, an organization that promotes the creation of community by providing the highest quality programming, services, and resources that meet the unique needs of students, staff, faculty, and visitors.

This meeting is sponsored by the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health (MIAEH) Community Engagement, Environmental Justice, and Health (CEEJH) lab, Maryland Environmental Health Network (MEHN), Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN), Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), United States Environmental Protect Agency (USEPA), State of Maryland, Office of Minority Health, Anacostia Watershed Society, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, the Hoff Funding Board, and Dance Exchange.

For more information, visit: http://www.ceejh.org/symposium

or contact:

Dr. Sacoby Wilson, PhD, MS – swilson2@umd.edu
Laura Dalemarre, MPH -  ldalemar@umd.edu or 301-405-5706

This vinyl school image

NY PTA Passes Resolution to Phase-out PVC in Schools

Print

The New York State Parents Teachers Association (PTA) voted last week at their annual meeting in Saratoga Springs, NY to pass a resolution calling for a phase out of the plastic PVC in schools. The resolution, called “Reducing & Phasing Out the Purchase of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Plastic in New York Schools,” acknowledged the serious harm posed by PVC throughout its lifecycle, releasing toxic chemicals such as phthalates during use in products such as school supplies and building materials; releasing toxic chemicals such as vinyl chloride and ethylene dichloride during manufacture; and generating toxic chemicals such as dioxins during disposal when burned.

The PTA’s resolution recognized that chronic health problems and conditions in children linked to environmental exposures are on the rise, including learning and developmental disorders; that children are uniquely vulnerable to harm from toxic chemicals such as those released by PVC; that PVC materials and products contain toxic additives, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and phthalates, that may be released into the indoor environment, posing hazards to human health including asthma and developmental problems and that children are at greatest risk of exposure; that PVC is commonly found in office supplies and building materials used in schools; that safer, cost-effective alternatives to PVC products are readily available for schools; and that the U.S. Green Building Council provides incentives for schools to avoid PVC and phthalates in “green schools.”

The NYS PTA resolution calls for the following actions:

  • Resolved that the New York State Congress of Parents and Teachers, Inc. seek and support legislation that would reduce and phase out the use of PVC products at all New York State school facilities; and be it further
  • Resolved that the New York State PTA urge school districts and the New York State Education Department (NYSED) to develop green procurement policies to reduce and phase out the use and purchase of PVC building materials and office and education supplies in school facilities where safer cost effective alternatives are available; and be it further
  • Resolved that the New York State PTA and its constituent units educate parents and community members about the potential health effects of PVC and work to eliminate PVC products at all PTA-sponsored events; and be it further
  • Resolved that the New York State PTA forward this resolution to the National PTA for its consideration.

This resolution adds to the growing movement for PVC-free schools and follows similar resolutions enacted by the American Public Health Association (APHA), the “oldest and most diverse organization of public health professionals in the world,” last year and by the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) union that represents more than 600,000 employees and retirees from New York State schools, colleges, and healthcare facilities, this past summer. The full PTA resolution can be read at the following link: http://chej.org/wp-content/uploads/NYS-PTA-PVC-Resolution.pdf.

fracking_Protest.nar

Anti-fracking groups cry foul on ODNR’s injection-well ‘open house’

Print

Two groups that oppose new injection wells in Athens County for wastewater from oil-and-gas drilling have criticized the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, for holding an “open house” to discuss a proposed new well in Rome Township, rather than a true public hearing.

ODNR has scheduled the open house for 6 p.m. Wednesday, at its Division of Wildlife offices at 360 E. State St.

At the event, ODNR officials will present information about an injection well for which the D.T. Atha company is seeking a permit. The well, if approved, would be located near the eastern border of Rome Township with Washington County, near Ohio Rt. 144 north of Frost, and would accept the chemical-laced brine that’s used to fracture shale beds in some oil-and-gas drilling operations.

The Atha well is the only pending permit application for a Class II injection well in Athens County. Another new well, to be located in the Coolville area, got its permit approved earlier this month.

Critics of injection wells have argued that the open house format, in which various informational booths are made available to the public, is inferior to the public hearing format, in which citizens can stand up and voice their opinions to state officials and the rest of the crowd in attendance. (ODNR still takes written comments even under the open house approach, however.)

In a news release, the Athens County Fracking Action Network and Appalachia Resist!, two groups opposed to hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas, and to new injection wells to store the wastewater from such operations, slammed ODNR for not holding a genuine public hearing.

“An ‘open house’ is no substitute for a public hearing,” the release maintains. “At a public hearing, residents bring their concerns publicly before ODNR and all assembled, speaking one at a time in an organized fashion so that every comment can be heard by all. Most importantly, at a public hearing, public comments are entered into the legal record and can thus help hold ODNR accountable to the public.”

By contrast, the release alleges, at an open house citizens “are asked to mill around a large room, talking to various ODNR representatives in a casual one-on-one manner,” and comments don’t become part of legal record, “so ODNR cannot be held accountable to objections raised.”

Local critics of fracking have argued that though federal legislation has declared fracking wastewater non-hazardous, in reality it is toxic.

“The fracking waste being dumped into these Class II wells contains highly toxic toluene, benzene, and other neurotoxic, carcinogenic, and radioactive substances that are regulated as hazardous for all other industries by the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act, and hazardous waste regulations,” Nancy Pierce, a member of ACFAN, is quoted as saying in the release. “Ohio does not monitor drinking or groundwater around any Class II injection wells.”

The state does not agree that injection wells pose a major hazard to water safety.

In an informational release sent to a member of ACFAN, ODNR maintains that according to the U.S. EPA, Class II injection wells “are the best way to ensure that surface or underground sources of drinking water are not contaminated by fluids produced from drilling, stimulation and production of oil and gas,” and are a “tested, safe and well-regulated solution” to this problem.

Currently, the release says, inspectors from ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resource Management make surprise inspections of each injection well in Ohio, on average, once every 11-12 weeks. These inspections include pressure tests and checking for leaks.

ODNR rates it “extremely unlikely” that anyone’s groundwater will be contaminated by a Class II injection well, noting that the underground “injection zones” are located far below water tables, and separated by “thousands of feet of impermeable rock.”

Critics suggest, however, that there is a risk of contamination both through decay of casings that surround the injection tubes, and spillage at the surface.

ODNR notes that by law, Ohio’s regulations of injection wells must be at least as stringent as the U.S. EPA’s. As for surface accidents – spillage at a well site, for example, or a wastewater truck sliding into a river – ODNR states that surface facilities must be built to be able to store 100 percent of the maximum fluid volume the well can hold. The state also regulates over-the-road transport of potentially hazardous loads, it points out.

While admitting that “accidents do happen,” the ODNR release adds, “the state’s stringent regulations and enforcement will minimize the chances of that happening and maximize our ability to respond quickly and decisively if it does.”

The ACFAN/Appalachia Resist! release, however, notes that the woman who owns the land on which the Atha well is proposed “does not want an injection well on her land,” because, according to her attorney, she is afraid her drinking-water well will be contaminated. Property owner Malvena Frost, the release says, was among more than 100 Athens Countians who submitted comments to ODNR critical of the Atha well permit application.

With this much public interest being shown, the groups argue, “Ohio law requires that a public hearing be held,” for which an “open house” is not an adequate replacement.

Some state agencies began doing away with the long-used public hearing method of collecting public input in the late ’90s, in favor of “open house” meetings similar to the one planned Wednesday in Athens. Athens County’s first exposure to the new format likely occurred during the Ohio Department of Transportation’s planning stage for the U.S. Rt. 33 expansion project between Athens and Shade.


Original Link: http://www.athensnews.com/ohio/article-38479-anti-fracking-groups.html

Disney Times Sq

All I want for Christmas is a toxic-free Disney

Print

Last Saturday, I stood outside of Disney’s iconic flagship store in Times Square, calling on them to make our dreams come true, by getting poisonous phthalates and vinyl plastic out of children’s school supplies.

I organized the action with Penelope Jagessar Chaffer, a mother of two young children (who also came along for the fun), and Director of the fantastic new environmental health documentary, Toxic Baby.

With me and Penelope and other concerned NYC residents were the voices and dreams of over 65,000 parents and Disney customers, who had signed petitions calling on the company to do what’s right for our children’s health.  For a glimpse of the action, check out this slideshow of photos:

Hidden Hazards in Disney School Supplies

It all started with our recent report on toxic school supplies, that I researched and authored this past summer.  Our investigation found Disney branded school supplies, like Disney Princess lunchboxes and Spiderman backpacks, loaded with hormone disrupting phthalates, toxic chemicals linked to asthma and early puberty that are getting into our children’s bodies.

The levels of Disney school supplies were off the charts, up to thirty times higher than what’s legal for toys.  We couldn’t believe it!

The report led to massive press coverage across the country and inspired Lori Alper, a mother of three school-aged boys from Bedford, Massachusetts, to launch a petition on Change.org calling on Disney to eliminate these harmful chemicals. MomsRising.org joined in the campaign and also posted the petition on their site.

Since launching the petition, Change.org and MomsRising.org together have mobilized over 65,000 parents to call on Disney to make our dreams come true and get these dangerous substances out of our lunchboxes and backpacks once and for all.

Unfortunately, Disney has ignored these protests and calls, so we knew we had to ramp up the pressure.

Dreaming of a toxic-free Disney in Times Square

So last Saturday, braving the cold NYC weather, we bundled up with our box full of petitions to deliver them to Disney’s flagship store in Times Square, NYC.

We passed out flyers to customers walking in and out of the store, as well as tourists that were strolling by.  Many were shocked to discover Disney sells school supplies laced with chemicals that have been linked to asthma, birth defects and ADHD.

We held signs that read, “Disney: Make Our Dreams Come True – Dump Your Toxic Lunchboxes.”  After educating hundreds of tourists and customers, we walked into the store, asked to speak to the store manager, and attempted to deliver our box full of petitions, along with this letter.  The store manager unfortunately refused our petitions, directing us to talk to the corporate headquarters, but that was OK.  We knew our message had been delivered.

As we were delivering our petitions in NYC, hundreds of miles away, Lori Alper and the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow were doing the very same at a Disney store outside of Boston, which you can read about in this great post by Lori.

In conjunction with these actions, we and our allies at MomsRising.org also launched a social media campaign calling on Disney to address our concerns.  The response to this has been amazing.  Within only a few days of launching this campaign, it’s been shared by over 1,600 people across the country.

Help us keep up the momentum!

Today is of course “Cyber Monday” –  so join us online in calling on Disney to make our dreams come true – by sharing this graphic with your friends on Facebook and Twitter today:

This holiday season, help us get Disney to clean up our act.

All I want for a Christmas is a toxic-free Disney.

What about you?

Drilling Site Image

Great Lakes Are Improving from Legacy Chemicals but Fracking May Change That

Print

Environmental Health News recently reported that,

“The Great Lakes hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water. The good news is that legacy contaminants are decreasing more quickly than previously reported in three of the Great Lakes, but have stayed virtually the same in two other lakes, according to new research… Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), the pesticide DDT and other banned compounds dropped about 50 percent in fish in Lakes Michigan, Ontario and Huron from 1999 through 2009, although there were no significant changes in Lakes Superior and Erie fish, according to the study to be published this month in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

“These are very positive results. The lakes are improving and slowly cleaning themselves up,” said Thomas Holsen, co-director of Clarkston University’s Center for the Environment and co-author of the study . “Even with the decreases, it will be 20 to 30 years until the decades-old contaminants in Great Lakes fish decline to the point that consumption advisories can be eliminated,” Holsen said.”

All good news, except as we clean up the old chemicals like Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), the pesticide DDT and other banned compounds they are being replaced by newer ones, such as flame retardants that are building up in fish and wildlife and chemicals we are not yet even looking for from oil and gas development.

Today corporations are beginning hydro-fracturing (fracking) all around the Great Lakes to extract gas. It is against the law to frack under the lakes but there are no laws about fracking near streams, creeks, rivers that empty into the lakes. This is insane. Hundreds of very toxic chemicals are injected under pressure into the ground to fracture the shale formation. Not all of these chemicals are retrieved after the fracking is done. In fact the common gas well leaves behind about 30% of the chemicals, radioactive materials and brine. It’s unbelievable, hundreds of chemicals injected all around our fresh water lakes that both the U.S. and Canada have worked for decades to clean up.

This destructive activity is a prime example of governments’ tunnel vision. Oil and Gas development moves forward, cleanup of the lakes moves forward, air deposited of chemicals from many sources continues – - – it’s like shoveling the sidewalk in a blizzard, it won’t be cleaned until the snow stops falling. There is no sign of the chemical blizzards retreat.

I grew up near the lakes in Buffalo and understand their beauty and value. My sister and brother-in-law were active in advocating the cleanup of the lakes in the 1970’s. Our family vacationed on the lakes. It was exciting back then to hear that a serious effort from both sides of the boarder would advance to make the lakes swimmable, the fish safe enough to eat and so many other promises. Now over 35 years later reports are praising the cleanup of historical chemical deposits while at the same time new chemicals are allowed to enter the lakes without protest.

Fracking is not yet widespread around the great lakes. Yes there are some wells in PA, OH, MI but we can stop widespread fracking that would further contribute chemicals to our beautiful lakes by taking a stand and insisting that regulations are put in place and bans where necessary to protect this amazing gift of nature. It is up you and me to make it happen. For more information about the recent study of the Great Lakes, click here.

Disneygraphic

Parents Call for a Toxic-free Disney in Times Square

Print

PARENTS DEMONSTRATE AT TIMES SQUARE DISNEY STORE, DEMAND DISNEY DUMP TOXIC LUNCHBOXES

  • Parents deliver more than 65,000 petitions calling on Disney to remove toxic chemicals from lunchboxes and other school supplies
  • Laboratory tests reveal Disney school supplies contain more toxic chemicals than federal safety levels for toys

NEW YORK, NY – As the holiday shopping season begins, concerned parents converged on Disney’s flagship store in Times Square Saturday to deliver tens of thousands of petition signatures calling on Disney to remove toxic chemicals from children’s school supplies.

Lori Alper, a mother of three school-aged boys from Bedford, Massachusetts, launched the Change.org petition after a recent NYC study of school supplies by the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) found lunch boxes that contained up to 30 times the amount of  phthalates deemed safe for toys by the federal government. Disney character lunch boxes were some of the worst offenders, including a Disney Princess and Spiderman lunch box.

So far, over 60,000 people have signed Lori’s petition on Change.org and a second petition on MomsRising.org asking Disney to stop selling “toxic lunch boxes” and other school supplies containing vinyl plastic and chemicals known as phthalates, which have reportedly been linked to serious health problems including asthma, ADHD, and diabetes.  Disney has yet to respond to the campaign so parents have decided to deliver thousands of signatures from fellow parents to Disney’s flagship store in Times Square this Saturday.

Says Penelope Jagessar Chaffer, a parent from New York attending the event: “Like millions of kids out there, my son eats out of lunch boxes,” said Chaffer. “But what most parents don’t realize is that lunch boxes made by Disney may be toxic to growing kids. That’s why I’m asking Disney to make sure its lunch boxes are safe for my son and other children.”

Background: Recent laboratory tests reveal children’s vinyl “back-to-school” supplies are laden with hidden phthalates — toxic chemicals harmful to children’s health. The levels of phthalates found in children’s school supplies would be illegal if these products were toys. Just like toys, school supplies are used by young children that are uniquely vulnerable to chemical exposure. Over 90% of all phthalates are used to soften vinyl plastic.

Phthalates are hazardous at low levels of exposure, disrupt hormones in our bodies, and have been linked to birth defects, infertility, early puberty, asthma, ADHD, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.  According to testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children have the highest exposures to these hazardous chemicals.  As a result of the widespread use of phthalates in vinyl plastic products, they have been found in the air and dust of our homes and schools, our bodies, blood and breast milk.

More information about toxics in children’s school products is available in CHEJ’s report Hidden Hazards: Toxic Chemicals Inside Children’s Vinyl Back-to-School Supplies.

Live signature totals from Lori Alper’s campaign on Change.org:
http://www.change.org/petitions/disney-get-toxic-chemicals-out-of-princess-and-spiderman-lunch-boxes

For more information on Change.org, please visit:
http://www.change.org/about
Change.org is the world’s largest petition platform, empowering people everywhere to create the change they want to see. There are more than 20 million users in 196 countries who use our tools to transform their communities – locally, nationally and globally.

For more information on Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) please visit:
http://chej.org/
The Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) is a national environmental health organization that co-authored the report which found Disney school supplies laden with toxic phthalates.

For more information on MomsRising.org, please visit:
http://www.momsrising.org/page/moms/aboutmomsrising
MomsRising.org is an online and on-the-ground grassroots organization of more than a million people who are working to achieve economic security for all families in the United States. MomsRising is working for paid family leave, flexible work options, affordable child care, and for an end to the wage and hiring discrimination which penalizes so many mothers. MomsRising also advocates for health care for all, toxic-free environments, and breastfeeding rights so that all children can have a healthy start. Established in 2006, MomsRising and its members are organizing and speaking out to improve public policy and to change the national dialogue on issues that are critically important to America’s families. In 2010, Forbes.com named MomsRising’s web site as one of the Top 100 Websites For Women.

###

passaic_medium_image

Concerns Grow Over Flooding From a NJ River That’s Also a Superfund Site

Print

The Passaic River in New Jersey isn’t one of those waterways with its source in a pristine mountain lake.

From its spring in Morris County to its mouth at Newark Bay, the Passaic’s shores are lined by suburban subdivisions, factories and depots.

The lower part of the Passaic is a federal Superfund site: during the Vietnam War, Agent Orange was manufactured on the Newark Waterfront.

When Sandy struck, the Passaic spilled its banks, sweeping into residential streets and mixing with waste from backed-up sewers. Dozens of houses were flooded.

“It’s stuff that’s washing into these people’s homes. And we don’t have a clue what that mix looks like,” said Ana Baptista, director of environmental programs at the non-profit Ironbound Community Corporation.

Baptista said the government has done a poor job informing people with flooded basements about the potential health risks.

“The only advisories that I saw were the advisories from the city condemning the properties because of flood and structural damage to their properties,” Baptista said. “No one came out and told them, be careful with the flood water because it could be contaminated.”

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection hasn’t directly addressed what’s in the water that has flooded homes. When asked about the flooding, the Department told WNYC concerned homeowners should seek testing, but that local authorities were responsible for assessing the risks.

On November 2, four days after Sandy, the DEP ordered industrial businesses to hold their waste water in tanks, instead of letting it flow into sewers.

(Photo: Newark residents emptied the contents of their flooded basements onto the sidewalk. Courtesy of the Ironbound Community Corporation)

Elias Rodriguez, an Environmental Protection Agency spokesman, said in an email there is no immediate hazard connected with the superfund site, but that “the EPA is continuing to assess impacts from the storm throughout the area and we will reach out to the community to get more information about potential impacts to the community.”

But there may be a long-term health risk, according to Ryan Miller, a research engineer at Rutgers University who has spent two years studying the lower Passaic. Miller said if toxic sediment from the Passaic was churned up by the storm, it’s possible toxins like PCBs ended up in basements.

“Soil particles or sediment particles at the bottom of the river act as colloids, they’re kind of like the car, and the contamination is kind of like the passenger, they bring it along for the ride,” said Miller.

Once inside someone’s basement, dioxins and PCBs can turn into gases, and start to poison the air. Toxicologists say this kind of exposure is dangerous only over a prolonged period of time.

And Miller said the risk that this has happened is probably low. Storm surges from the sea, like the one Sandy caused, tend to destabilize river sediment far less than heavy rains.

Last year, Hurricane Irene’s rains flooded the Passaic, exposing a seam of dioxin- and PCB-tainted sediment in the river at Lyndhurst. The EPA did testing and decided to decontaminate a section of river, but not an adjacent little league ball field.

With more mega-storms predicted for the years ahead, the Passaic will almost certainly flood again. Environmentalists hope the next time, the government will quickly tell citizens what it knows about what’s in the water.


Story By: Ilya Marritz

Original Link: http://www.wnyc.org/articles/new-jersey-news/2012/nov/13/concerns-grow-over-flooding-river-s-also-superfund-site/

Using Blood Lead Levels to Set Cleanup Goals

Print

Lead smelter in Kellogg, ID.The creativity of our government regulators never ceases to amaze me. I’ve seen a lot of incredibly stupid and callous decisions in my time, but this one is right up at the top. The US environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 10 and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality somehow thought it was a good idea to use Blood Lead Levels in children to establish a remedial action objective (RAO) at the Bunker Hill Superfund site in Kellogg, ID. According to a recent peer reviewed paper published in the American Journal of Public Health, this decision is codified in EPA’s 1991 Record of Decision for the Bunker Hill site (1).

According to the authors, “the 1991 ROD for the Bunker Hill mine defined the EPA RAOs for child blood lead levels and stipulated the following criteria measures: (1) less than 5% of tested children should have blood lead levels greater than 10 micrograms per deciliter and (2) less than 1% of tested children should have blood lead levels greater than 15 micrograms per deciliter.” You got that. As long as no more than 5% of the children in Kellogg have blood lead levels greater than 10 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dl) and no more than 1% had levels great than 15 ug/dl, then the site cleanup efforts could be considered “successful” (1).

What was EPA thinking when they decided to use lead levels in children to define the effectiveness of a cleanup? And then, to accept that some children will have blood lead levels that exceed the recommended criteria is unconscionable. Even if this factor was not the sole criterion used to make decisions about the effectiveness of the cleanup, it is still unethical to use the children of Kellogg in this way.

The adverse health outcomes of exposure to lead are well understood. Earlier this year the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revised its guidelines for lead lowering the blood lead level for protecting children’s health from 10 to 5 ug/dl. At the time CDC’s Advisory Committee for Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention whose recommendations led to this change made it clear that no safe blood lead level in children has been identified.

Lead was mined at the Bunker Hill site for more than 100 years and at one time this was the home of the largest lead smelter in the United States. When the mine shut down in 1981, it left behind a toxic legacy of huge waste piles and residual contamination everywhere. Blood lead testing in children as earlier as 1976 found that 99% of Kellogg children living within 1 mile of the smelter who were tested had blood lead levels greater than 40 ug/dl (2). Today it is much less clear what the blood lead levels are because so few children are tested.

It is an injustice for EPA to treat the residents of Kellogg in this way. The residents In Kellogg have suffered disproportionately not only from lead exposure which continues to this day, but also from social disparities that include unemployment, poverty, and limited educational opportunity. Although there has been substantial cleanup at the site, it remains unclear whether there has been a corresponding improvement in community health and wellbeing. So much more needs to be done. This of course will never be achieved in communities like Kellogg, so long as decision makers think there’s nothing wrong with using the children as canaries in the mine fields.

1. Moodie, SM and Evans, EL. Ethical Issues in Using Children’s Blood Lead levels as a Remedial Action Objective. American J Public Health 2011 101(S1): S156-S160.

2. Landrigan PJ, Baker EL Jr, Feldman RG, et al. Increased lead absorption with anemia and slowed nerve conduction in children near a lead smelter. J Pediatrics 1976 89(6):904-910.