Flip-Flop Allows Lead-Hiding Technique for Federal Water Compliance Tests
In a policy move with disturbing national ramifications,
the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has officially approved a DC Water
and Sewer Authority’s (WASA) lead in water testing protocol known as “pre-flushing”
that the federal agency originally said “goes against the intent”
of federal lead water testing rules and artificially reduces lead measurements
at the tap. The EPA quietly authorized this protocol without informing lead
poisoning prevention advocates or the public of its action until March 2009,
six months after acting. The technique is also being used by other large city
utilities, including those in Chicago and Philadelphia,
calling into question the soundness of lead in drinking water data in many jurisdictions.
EPA’s formal approval of pre-flushing in DC has alarming national implications
because it may spark its even wider use.
Under the federal lead in water testing law known as the
Lead and Copper Rule, or LCR, local utilities must test for lead at consumers’
taps to ensure that water being consumed is safe. Corrosion in the distribution
system and in the home can result in elevated lead levels, so the LCR requires
utilities to collect samples after water has been standing for at least six
hours, in order to measure “worst case” lead levels people find
when they first turn on the tap in the morning or return home from work. Most
jurisdictions leave sample bottles and instructions at selected high-risk homes,
and ask residents to fill them when they first get up in the morning. Importantly,
samples are supposed to be collected under normal water use conditions, and
a 2004 memo regarding proper LCR samples from EPA’s acting assistant administrator
said, “There is no outer limit on standing time.” In other words,
residents are allowed to let the water stand for any duration over 6 hours prior
to sampling that happens to occur through normal use, which is important because
longer stagnation times, up to a point, can result in higher lead in water levels.
Pre-flushing involves running the water at the tap where
the sample is to be taken on the eve of compliance sampling, prior to starting
stagnation – something most people simply don’t do normally. Dr.
Marc Edwards, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic
Institute and an expert on drinking water safety, has shown that pre-flushing
for between two and 10 minutes sharply reduces water lead levels captured the
next morning. In fact, a representative of EPA’s Office of Water acknowledged
at an October 2008 public meeting that pre-flushing artificially hides lead
in water by purging lead rust and solder particles that might otherwise flow
from the tap the next time it’s opened. Dr. Edwards says that pre-flushing
also can reduce the amount of dissolved lead in the sample by putting an artificial
cap on standing time.
Last summer, DC advocates discovered that since 2005 DC
WASA, had been instructing LCR testers to let the water run at maximum flow
for ten minutes the night before collecting the sample. When advocates called
this to the attention of EPA last August and asked
the agency to ban the practice, the initial response was encouraging.
Cynthia Dougherty, director of EPA’s Office of Water, wrote
on September 12 that pre-flushing “goes against the intent
of the [LCR’s] monitoring protocol, since it changes the normal water
use of the homeowners in the sample.” But a few days later, EPA
formally and quietly approved a two-minute pre-flush for DC WASA.
In the meantime, DC WASA was falsely assuring advocates that they were no longer
seeking EPA permission to continue a pre-flush of any duration. DC WASA switched
from a 10-minute to a two-minute pre-flush instruction for LCR compliance sampling
immediately after receiving EPA’s approval letter, and is using it currently
for its January-June 2009 tests. Dr. Edwards’ research indicates that
a two-minute pre-flush hides nearly as much lead as a 10-minute pre-flush.
Dougherty justified contradicting her earlier assessment
of the pre-flush as not constituting normal water use with a contorted and illogical
explanation: A two-minute pre-flush recommendation on the eve of LCR sample
collection is justifiable as “normal use” because DC WASA allegedly
instructs all its customers to flush their taps for two minutes just before
consuming tap water. But, WASA has not issued a general flushing recommendation
to avoid lead for several years, and in fact has vigorously proclaimed the absolute
safety of DC drinking water since 2005. And, even if a utility did regularly
remind all of its customers to flush their taps before consumption, there is
a vast difference between such general advice that’s usually ignored and
a specific written reminder written on an LCR sampling instruction form that’s
likely to be followed by nearly every resident taking a compliance sample. Also
flushing lines prior to beginning stagnation, at least 6 hours before sampling,
and flushing just before running water for consumption are not in the least
DC WASA has had a troubled history regarding lead in drinking
water, especially since 2001 when lead levels skyrocketed after a water disinfection
chemical was changed. Unknown to the public until January 2004, lead levels
remained high, and DC WASA failed to meet the LCR’s lead standard, until
an anti-corrosion chemical began to be added to the water. DC WASA’s use
of the pre-flush starting in early 2005, the year that DC WASA supposedly returned
to meeting the LCR’s lead standard, raises the possibility that their
LCR test results – and the accompanying assurances about the safety of
DC water – have been a deception.
The Alliance and other advocates are demanding that
EPA put a stop to pre-flushing and other techniques that hide lead in LCR samples
and undermine the clear intent of the LCR. We are also working with members
of Congress to increase awareness of the problem and reform the LCR. Because
EPA does not collect information on the specific protocols used for LCR compliance,
it’s impossible to know how many other utilities are gaming the system.
Local advocates are encouraged to check their utility’s LCR sample collection
protocol for anything that requires a deviation from how water is normally used.
Please email Alliance Staff member Ralph
Scott what you find.
Healthy Housing Policy Summit to be Held May 7 in Washington, DC; Register by
The Alliance for Healthy Homes and the National Center
for Healthy Housing will be co-hosting a National Healthy Housing Policy Summit
May 7 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the National Association of Home Builders
National Housing Center, 1201 15th St., NW, Washington, DC. The conference will
bring together leading organizations and experts in many sectors of the housing,
public health, and environmental policy communities to focus on policies, programs,
and practices to create healthier housing for America's
families. The conference aims to break down walls between disciplines and build
new bridges, strengthen relationships, and exchange new ideas.
With an audience that will include Congressional and Obama
Administration officials, the Summit will aim to secure concrete commitments
from participating organizations and viable National Healthy Housing Action
Plan with practical, concrete steps to produce broad, meaningful changes in
housing design, construction, operation, maintenance, and rehabilitation.
The Summit is also co-sponsored by several national partners,
including the American Public Health Association, Enterprise Community Partners,
LivingCities, NeighborWorks America, the National Association of County and
City Health Officials, the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment
Officials, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and the National Environmental
Health Association. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the
Kresge Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build
a Healthier America generously provided funding support for the event.
Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders and U.S.
Senator Jack Reed will be featured speakers, and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan,
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and several other officials have been invited
now Available to Aid Compliance with Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule
EPA released several new tools this month in order to aid
compliance with the new Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule, which
goes into full effect next year.
As of April 22, 2009, training firms may apply for accreditation
so that they may train and certify contractors in lead-safe renovation, a requirement
of the RRP Rule to work in most pre-1978 houses that contain lead-based paint.
EPA’s new web page contains application instructions and information that
contractors and training providers need to become approved by EPA. http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/toolkits.htm.
One document that will be particularly useful is the new
to Lead-Safe Renovation, Repair and Painting” a.k.a. the
“Steps Guide” referenced in Module 8 of EPA’s model curriculum.
This document summarizes the requirements of the rule and can be used by certified
renovators to help guide the on-the-job training of their non-certified colleagues.
Also released were Spanish language versions of the model
curriculum (both initial course and renovator refresher course).
Finally, EPA released its RRP
cleaning verification card, an image of a cleaning cloth to which
actual cleaning cloths must be compared during the controversial interior post-renovation
cleaning verification process required under the RRP Rule. Some advocates were
shocked at the very yellow appearance of the image, likening it to a baby’s
wet diaper, and questioned whether it’s an appropriate standard for determining
that cleaning had been adequately done.
City Counsel Questions Lead Enforcement Delays
More than 50 properties in Cincinnati - many of them houses
where children live - are contaminated with poisonous lead paint, even though
the Cincinnati Health Department has known of them for more than a decade. The
department’s failure to act means some families
continue to move into potentially dangerous homes and apartments without receiving
warnings or safety instructions from health inspectors.
A recent Cincinnati
Enquirer review of city health records found that 55 of the 268
properties with lead hazards have been on the city’s books since before
1999. Yet the properties have not been cleaned and the owners have not been
prosecuted. City officials are now asking why the health department has not
done more and demanding more aggressive action to force owners to clean up.
Cincinnati City Councilwoman Roxanne Qualls took up the
call for action, and drew up a plan based on input from the Alliance for Healthy
Homes for how the city should clean up properties with lead hazards. Qualls’
three-tier program to systematically address housing that could have lead hazards
is based on the Alliance’s publication “Lead-Safe
Housing Policy Guidance”.
The policy recognizes that a city such as Cincinnati has
intact lead paint in much of its housing stock that needs to be maintained in
good condition. This housing is “Tier One.” Tier Two is a subset
of the housing stock more likely to have lead paint hazards because of building
code violations or other risk factors. Tier Three comprises extremely high risk
homes, such as where children have been exposed to lead or where there is significant
Qualls’ plan calls for:
-An outside evaluation of the problem and what's been done to address it. The
evaluator will make recommendations for improvement.
-A review of what other cities are doing.
-A law that lets the city inspect properties where lead hazards are suspected.
Currently, the health department can enter a property only if there is a child
with an elevated lead level.
-Allowing city inspectors to issue tickets for lead hazards, which will then
allow for an administrative hearing. This process is already used for building
Cincinnati Health Commissioner Noble Maseru outlined
a plan that requires landlords, home sellers and day-care owners to prove their
property is lead-safe. And he pledged the department will begin to post warning
signs on some properties and will soon begin clearing its backlog of cases for
which cleanup orders have been disregarded.
Air Freshener Makers Disclose More Ingredients
In March, the six largest makers of home air fresheners
disclosed nearly all the ingredients that comprise 0.1% or more of any of their
air freshener products and how much of each ingredient was used in their products
in 2007 within “binned” ranges of pounds. This disclosure occurred
after Sierra Club agreed to withdraw a freedom of information request seeking
more information from the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) about air freshener ingredients.
The Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA) released
a public list of 98 “non-fragrance” ingredients (including 25 whose
names are redacted) and the Fragrance Materials Association (FMA) provided a
public list of 636 “fragrance ingredients” (including five whose
names are withheld) and posted it on the association’s website at www.fmafragrance.org/sub_pages/airfreshener_binnedlist.html.
In 2008, CSPA and FMA provided this information to EPA
in response to an agency request after the Alliance for Healthy Homes, the National
Center for Healthy Housing, Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council
raised concerns in a 2007 petition about air freshener ingredients believed
to cause health problems (see October
2007 Alert Article). But public versions of these initial ingredient
lists were even more heavily redacted and information about annual volume of
use for fragrance ingredients was entirely withheld from the public.
The new ingredient lists still have important gaps. They
cover just ingredients present in six companies’ air fresheners that are
used in concentrations greater that 0.1%, and some ingredients remain withheld
because of company confidentiality concerns. In fact, one secret non-fragrance
ingredient is used in amounts between 100,000 and 500,000 pounds per year in
air fresheners and two others are used in amounts between 10,000 and 100,000
pounds annually. However this disclosure provides health advocates with a good
basis for discussions with industry and government regulators about reducing
the use of ingredients that may cause adverse health effects such as lung irritation
or damage, asthma attacks, cancer, hormonal changes, birth defects, or brain
damage. Advocates and researchers are studying the disclosure lists for chemicals
Also in March, S.C. Johnson, the maker of Glade scented
candles and air freshener sprays, announced that it would phase out the use
of all phthalates and fully disclose all ingredients for its entire product
line by January 2012. The company started providing disclosures for certain
products immediately, and all ingredient information will ultimately be available
on product labels, via a 1-800 number, and on the company’s web site (www.whatsinsidescjohnson.com).
CSPA, FMA and some of their member companies are continuing
to meet with the Alliance and Sierra Club about broadening ingredient disclosure
to more companies and to household products beyond air fresheners, including
cleaning products, antimicrobials, polishes, and floor maintenance products,
and making ingredient disclosure more meaningful and accessible to consumers.
Drywall Being Investigated by Several States
Some of the very communities that have been hit hardest
by the collapse of the housing market and skyrocketing foreclosure rates
are now facing a new problem: Chinese drywall leaking corrosive chemicals into
homes and endangering health.
Studies have concluded that at least some drywall imported
from China during the homebuilding boom years of 2004 and 2005 was made with
waste materials from scrubbers on coal-fired power plants. The defective drywall
smells like rotten eggs and emits sulfur compounds that corrode air conditioning
coils and damages other metals inside the home, including pitting faucets, blackening
silver jewelry and eating away at copper wires inside electrical outlets.
Residents in homes with the drywall have complained of
a variety of health symptoms, including nosebleeds, respiratory problems, headaches,
nausea and skin itching that disappears when residents leave their homes and
come back when they return. The first complaints started filtering into counties
and state health departments in late July and August 2008.
So far, the problem is particularly pronounced in the Southeast,
an area with a high concentration of new construction and where the damp climate
appears to cause the gypsum in the building material to degrade more quickly.
In Florida alone, experts estimate more than 35,000 homes may contain the product,
and the state health department in Louisiana has also received hundreds of complaints
in just a few weeks.
On April 3, 2009 Florida Governor Crist sent a letter to
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and ATSDR Director Besser requesting assistance
from the US EPA and CDC to implement chemical testing in homes that are experiencing
severe copper corrosion associated with Chinese made drywall. The Governor conveyed
initial findings from the Florida Department of Health State Toxicologist and
Indoor Air Programs Coordinator confirming the presence of strontium sulfide
and elemental sulfur in drywall from China. Tests also confirmed that drywall
from problem homes generated hydrogen sulfide, carbonyl sulfide, and carbon
disulfide when exposed to high relative humidity or heat. Indoor air samples
are still needed to determine occupant exposure to the corrosive gasses.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating,
as are health departments in Virginia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Florida and
Holds National Bed Bug Summit; Attendees Offer Recommendations
On April 14 and 15th, EPA held
a National Bed Bug summit in Arlington, Virginia in order to share information
on the expanding effect of bed bugs on housing and other sectors.
The goals of the summit were to provide a venue to communicate
with others in the community affected by the growing bed bug problem; identify
ideas and options for bed bug prevention, control, management, and strategies
for outreach and education; and for participating stakeholders to develop recommendations
for action. Summit attendees were divided into ten workgroups in order
to develop recommendations on major bed bug issues. These recommendations are
summarized on the EPA’s website at http://www.epa.gov/oppfead1/cb/ppdc/bedbug-summit/index.html.
The report highlights key ways in which homes and communities
have enormous impacts on our health. Living in unhealthy homes and communities
can severely limit choices and resources. Healthy environments – including
safe, well-kept housing and neighborhoods – encourage healthy behaviors
and make it easier to adopt and maintain them. To improve health the Commission
recommends 10 ways to improve where we live, learn, work and play, including
two recommendations specific to healthy homes ands neighborhoods.
* Developing a “health impact rating” for housing
and infrastructure projects that reflects the projected effects on community
health and provides incentives for projects that earn the rating.
* Create healthy community demonstrations to evaluate the effects of a full
complement of health-promoting policies and programs.
The report argues that the health of Americans will
not improve unless individuals do more to incorporate health into all aspects
of their everyday lives.
Safety Week is May 3-9
Show your support for the 29th annual Building
Safety Week: Where You Live, Work & Play. The International Code Council
Foundation created Building Safety Week to expand awareness of the importance
of a safe and sustainable built environment and critical role of building codes
and code officials. For more details such as campaign kit materials and informational
brochures, visit the ICC website at http://www.iccsafe.org/safety/BSW/
Thanks to a generous
grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Alliance is pleased to be launching
a new effort to assist disadvantaged contractors and ensure lead safe homes
The Alliance will partner with organizations based in and
tied to high-risk communities in Mississippi in order to provide intensive training
and technical assistance enabling them to become EPA-accredited trainers in
lead-safe renovation. In turn, our partners will provide low cost training statewide,
with a particular emphasis on contractors employing economically disadvantaged
persons and those working in distressed areas. This grant comes at a critical
time as EPA’s Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule takes full effect
in April 2010, and communities all over the country are in need of training.
* * * * *
If you appreciate the news and
information in the Alliance Alert, please consider making a tax-deductible donation
to the Alliance! We rely on donations from individuals and organizations
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make a one-time donation or sign up to make a recurring monthly or quarterly
donation on our website. Thank you for your support!
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Sign up to receive updates from the Alliance! To receive
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A national conference on “Approaches
to Managing Mold in Buildings” will be held April 27-29, 2009, in Orlando,
FL. Sponsored by the University of Tulsa, the conference will cover the “latest
research and applied outcomes to use in field practice from key national and
international experts.” For more information, visit www.utulsa.edu/iaqprogram
or call 918-631-3088.
The 2009 National Lead Poisoning Prevention and Healthy
Homes Conference will occur April 28-May 1, 2009, in Orlando, FL. The conference
will provide a wealth of information and a series of panel discussions from
healthy homes professionals and advocates. For more information, see www.LeadMoldConferences.com.
Join NeighborWorks America in
Phoenix, AZ, May 4-6th 2009. Two days of green practice-oriented clinics on
May 4 and 5 will be combined with a one-day green symposium, “Greening
Your Roadmap to Succeed in a Changing Landscape” on May 6.
This is your opportunity to hear how your peers in community development are
adopting green concepts and delivering valuable returns. For more information
or to register, please visit the Phoenix
Training Institute website.
Join premier experts and future leaders at the Communities
in Action for Asthma-Friendly Environments National Forum on June 4-5, 2009,
in Washington, D.C. Don't miss this chance to learn how to improve program quality
and impact, build a sustainable asthma care enterprise, and expand the scope
of your services to improve the health and quality of life of everyone with
asthma in your community. Register today at https://www.epaasthmaforum.com.
The National Environmental Health Association’s Annual
Educational Conference will be from June 21-24th, 2009 in Atlanta, GA. For more
information or to register for the AEC, visit www.neha.org/AEC/2009/index.html.
Save the date for the
symposium entitled “Promoting Environmental and Policy Change to Support
Healthy Aging,” to be held Sept. 15-16, 2009, in Chapel Hill, NC. This
symposium is a third in a series funded by CDC's Healthy Aging Program. More
information on this symposium can be found at www.prc-han.org.
The 2009 National Environmental Public Health Conference:
People in a Healthy Environment seeks to promote the nation’s
environmental health capacity by enhancing the expertise of environmental health
professionals - including public health and healthcare professionals, academic
researchers, representatives from communities and organizations, as well as
advocacy and business groups with a primary interest in environmental public
health. The conference will be held October 25-28 in Atlanta, GA. Abstracts
are due May 8; submit
an abstract electronically.