of Eastern US on the Lookout for Mold, Structural Damage Following Heavy Summer
Record flooding across the Eastern United States followed
days of extremely heavy rains in late June, causing flooding and widespread
damage and increasing the risk of unhealthy conditions in millions of homes
in the region. Authorities estimate clean-up costs will rise into the billions.
Basements were inundated by flood waters, some up to their
ceilings, and buildings with leaking roofs and windows also experienced significant
water damage. Swift river waters also caused structural damage to some homes.
In many areas of New York State, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, clean-up efforts
are just beginning. As late as mid-July, some homes still had standing water
in their basements and wet conditions in living areas. Combined with a blistering
heat wave and extremely high humidity during part of July, the water damage
has led to an explosion of mold and bacteria growth in many homes.
To limit damage, residents should remove all wet belongings
from their homes and clean or dispose of them. When carpets, upholstered furniture,
many toys, wallboard, and other items experience heavy saturation from floodwaters,
it is often impossible to dry them sufficiently. Mold and bacteria growth on
such items can begin soon after flood waters recede, posing health hazards to
residents, especially those who have asthma, other respiratory ailments, and
weak immune systems.
Sierra Club Petition on Lead in Toy Jewelry
On July 27, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
denied the Sierra Club’s petition to address toy jewelry that contains
lead. The denial was published in the Federal Register.
The Sierra Club had asked EPA to use its authority under
the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to obtain information, set a very low
limit of lead content in toy jewelry, report on the risks posed by lead in toy
jewelry, and advice the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to take further
action. The petition was in response to a number of CPSC recalls of toy jewelry
with high lead content and the death of a young boy who swallowed a jewelry
charm in Minneapolis in February.
EPA claims it would be more effective at this time to continue
working in its present role with CPSC to “understand the scope of the
lead in toy jewelry problem.” The Sierra Club said it was disappointed
in the decision, pointing to the fact that a child was killed by lead content
in toy jewelry. The State of Illinois had also strongly urged EPA to act on
Say EPA Isn’t Protecting Children from Toxic Chemicals
The nation’s leading environmental health scientists
charged in July that the EPA is failing to protect children from toxic chemicals
in their environment, including those that may be used in the home. Many of
the chemicals cited by the scientists are known or suspected carcinogens.
The scientists’ took special aim at the guidance
standard approved by EPA in 2005, which advises EPA policy makers to base pesticide
and other chemical approvals and registrations on the assumption that toxic
chemicals and carcinogens are ten times more potent in young children than they
are in adults. The environmental health researchers say that the standard is
faulty and based on averages, and that in many cases, toxins may be hundreds
of times more dangerous to children than they are to adults.
“The guidelines are not protective of children,"
said Philip Landrigan, professor of pediatrics and community and preventive
medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "It's an example of the administration
failing the most vulnerable members of our society."
Dr. Lynn Goldman, a professor of public health at Johns
Hopkins University and a former EPA official, added, “It's likely that
many carcinogens, if they were specifically tested, would be more than 10 times
as potent in juveniles, just like the chemicals in the EPA analysis were found
to be more than 100 times as potent in young animals.
"You don't want to stop here and say 10 is right," she said. "That
should be the starting point to make sure we aren't underprotecting kids from
a whole series of chemicals."
EPA responded by saying that the guidance adds a margin
of safety for children. The chemical industry, through the American Chemistry
Council, expressed its skepticism of any increased chemical susceptibility in
children, despite the weight of the scientific evidence that exists on the subject.
Increasing Capacity for Healthy Rebuilding in Hurricane Katrina Aftermath
On July 21, the Alliance for Healthy Homes, in cooperation
with the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans and other local partner
organizations, sponsored its second healthy rebuilding train-the-trainer workshop
in New Orleans. Like a similar workshop the Alliance held in April, this session
was designed to build training capacity for teaching people how to do safe and
effective restoration of moldy, flood affected homes. Many residents, volunteers,
and workers are still not being taught how to protect themselves from mold exposure
and injury hazards as they clean out structurally sound, moldy properties to
prepare them for restoration.
Some 25 representatives of about 20 New Orleans area groups
attended the workshop, which was held at the Preservation Resource Center. The
participating organizations, churches, and companies are cleaning out thousands
of houses. The Alliance views this work as a scalable approach to helping families
reclaim their homes. JPMorgan Chase Bank and Enterprise Community Partners provided
financial support, and Alliance trainer Dennis Livingston taught the workshop.
The Alliance and Livingston also held a follow-up training
session on July 22 for graduates of the July 21 workshop and graduates of a
similar workshop held in April to sharpen training skills by helping train a
group of housing cleanup volunteers at their work site, a flood-affected home
in New Orleans’ Upper Ninth Ward. Later that same day, the Alliance and
Livingston also held a two-hour training on safe and effective mold cleanup
at the Preservation Resource Center for a group of New Orleans homeowners.
The Alliance plans to continue working to increase local
training capacity on safe and effective decontamination of flood-affected homes
in the New Orleans area and expand our healthy rebuilding training and technical
assistance work to include: safety training for Spanish-speaking day laborers,
how to make homes safer and healthier beyond the mold cleanup stage, affordable
incorporation of disaster resistant building strategies (including strategies
to create additional flood safe space and looking at affordable ways to elevate
houses given the lack of progress by the federal government in fixing the levees)
and green building principles into rebuilding, development of simpler healthy
rebuilding guidebooks in English and Spanish, and broadening of our work to
other affected Gulf coast communities beyond the New Orleans area.
Blames the Victims in Mississippi Lead Poisoning Case, Prevails
A Mississippi lead poisoning lawsuit, filed by five families
from Greenwood, went to trial on July 17. The defendant in the case, NL Industries
(formerly National Lead), claimed that the families involved could not prove
that deteriorated lead-based paint caused their children’s physical and
behavioral health problems, which is a standard line of defense when individuals
sue former lead pigment manufacturers like NL. NL took things a step further
in this case, however, alleging that genetic defects among the families caused
the children’s learning disabilities and disruptive behavior.
The lawsuit claims that at least 13 children living in
a substandard housing complex were poisoned by lead following years of exposure.
NL Industries will argue, despite genetic testing that shows otherwise, that
family traits of “poor performance” are to blame, not lead-based
paint. One of NL’s expert witnesses remarked that some of the children
involved in the case had “familial mental retardation.”
On August 4, a federal jury of eight handed NL a victory,
saying that the company did not bear responsibility for the children’s
Experts say that NL’s tactic of shifting the blame
is nothing new. In lawsuit after lawsuit, NL and other lead pigment manufacturers
consistently assign responsibility to property owners and managers, parents,
local governments, and increasingly, genetic traits that may cause health problems
similar to that of lead poisoning.
Charges Salem (MA) Housing Authority with Violating Lead Disclosure Law
In late June, EPA filed a complaint against the Salem Housing
Authority in Massachusetts, alleging that the agency failed to inform tenants
living in 14 apartments that lead hazards existed in their homes. The tenants
lived in the apartments between April 2002 and October 2005, and 13 of the 14
units housed young children.
The apartments in question are scattered throughout four
housing complexes in Salem. Residents were alarmed, wondering why the housing
authority never informed them of the potential hazard. EPA said that the disclosure
law violation was serious enough that Salem Housing Authority may face up to
$400,000 in fines.
Some of the apartments involved in the complaint are located
at a public housing project called Rainbow Terrace. For many months, residents
complained to the housing authority and others of extensive mold growth, flooded
basements, rodent infestations, leaking windows, poor heating systems, and other
unhealthy housing conditions. When the housing authority responded to these
concerns, they also deleaded the apartments.
The public housing authority declined to comment on the
complaint, but its executive director did say that it is the authority’s
policy to inform residents when lead-based paint is discovered and removed,
and that the Rainbow Terrace property is undergoing an $11 million renovation
project in response to residents’ concerns.
to Require Lead Tests for All Children Enrolled in WIC
Beginning October 1, all Michigan children enrolled in
the supplemental Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food program in the state
will receive a lead blood test. The bill was enacted as part of an effort to
increase lead testing in the state, and the legislation had the backing of health
care providers looking for more ways to increase compliance with Medicaid testing
requirements. Many children who participate in WIC are also enrolled in Medicaid
and are already entitled by federal law to free lead testing before age 3. Reportedly,
the state health department has agreed to reimburse providers for screening
for an estimated 20 percent of the WIC-enrolled children whose tests are not
covered under Medicaid.
The full text of the legislation, enrolled SB 1198, is
very short and reads, “Sec. 111l. Beginning October 1, 2006, the department
and the department of community health shall require that all children participants
in the special supplemental food program for women, infants, and children (WIC
program) receive lead testing. Federal funds provided for administration of
the special supplemental food program for women, infants, and children (WIC
program) shall not be used to implement or administer the provisions of this
Clara County (CA) Lead Litigation Headed to Trial
On June 21, the California Supreme Court denied review
of a California appellate court ruling that held that Santa Clara County and
several other counties and municipalities may sue former lead pigment manufacturers
under both public nuisance and fraud causes of action.
The CA Supreme Court did not give a reason for denying
review, and its decision sends the case back to the trial court level.
A study recently conducted at Emory University suggests
that people who were exposed to dieldrin, a common pesticide developed in 1940
as an alternative to DDT, while in the womb or during breastfeeding may have
an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease after the age of 50.
While it has long been thought that dieldrin has been a
cause of Parkinson’s in adults, this study is the first to say that its
effects begin in the womb and during breastfeeding. The pesticide, banned by
the Environmental Protection Agency in 1987, was used widely for insect and
termite control in home foundations.
The study involved the use of pregnant mice that were given
a dose of dieldrin or a placebo every three days during pregnancy and on through
lactation. When the offspring were three months of age, their brains were examined
for characteristics that develop into Parkinson’s in humans. It was found
that the mice in the group that were given dieldrin had a higher than normal
level of the dopamine transporter, which is a part of the brain system that
is affected by Parkinson’s in humans. It was also found that the male
offspring were more susceptible to the changes than the females, which parallels
Parkinson’s greater prevalence in human males.
Despite the results of the study, researchers encourage
women to continue to breastfeed because the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh
any possible risks, especially given that dieldrin has been off the market for
nearly 20 years.
The Emory study was funded by the National Institute of
Environmental Health Sciences and was published June 29 in the Federation
of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal. An abstract of
the study can be found at http://tinyurl.com/hl9b3.
Editor’s Note: This article was written by Justin
Key, one of the Alliance’s Summer 2006 interns. Justin is a student at
Indicates that Low Blood Lead Levels Contribute to Early Death from Cardiovascular
Disease and Cancer
Researchers from the third National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey (NHANES) suggested in a recent study that a correlation exists
between low levels of lead in blood and mortality. The survey examined participants,
aged forty at the beginning of the study, to determine the risk of mortality
from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer in relation to blood lead
Results displayed an increase in blood lead levels with
age. Also, concentrations were disproportionately higher for men, non-Hispanic
blacks, lower income individuals, those with educational attainment under 12
years, current smokers, and residents of the Northeast United States. Overall,
the risk for mortality was small. Moreover, the findings are consistent with
other research suggesting adverse health effects from low levels of lead exposure.
Previous surveys, conducted in 1976-1980, indicated a higher
risk of death with blood lead levels higher than 20 µg/dL. Blood lead
levels have significantly decreased since 1970, however, and the third survey,
conducted from 1988-1994, reflect that even low blood lead levels, between 5-9
µg/dL, carry an increased risk of death.
The current NHANES, with data from 1999-2002, suggests
an elevated risk of peripheral arterial disease, hypertension, and renal dysfunction
in a population with blood lead levels averaging approximately 2 µg/dL.
The analysis of the third NHANES study supports other evidence
of adverse health consequences related to blood levels that are lower than current
levels of concern.
Editor’s Note: This article was written by Courtney
Hinton, one of the Alliance’s Summer 2006 interns. Courtney is a student
at the University of Maryland—College Park.
Shows that Toxic Chemicals are Expensive When Used in Producing Consumer Goods
In July, a state-sponsored study in Massachusetts found
that phasing out lead and four other toxic substances could save consumer products
manufacturers significant amounts of money. The study was conducted by the Toxics
Use Reduction Institute at the University of Massachusetts—Lowell.
The researchers found that ridding consumer products of
lead, formaldehyde, perchloroethylene, hexavalent chromium, and a phthalate
known as DEHP could have economic benefits for manufacturers. Researchers acknowledged
that some of the safer alternatives identified could be more expensive up front
but would have long-term savings for industry.
Advocates supporting a bill currently before the Massachusetts
Legislature that would ban these five toxins and four others lauded the study,
saying that it undercuts manufacturers’ complaints that phasing out toxic
chemicals from consumer products would cost too much money and increase prices
overall. Industry countered that even short-term cost increases, small or large,
could lead to competitive disadvantages with companies outside of Massachusetts
that are still allowed to use the toxic chemicals. Industry representatives
also noted that sometimes, alternatives to toxins turn out to be just as bad
as the chemical that is phased out, though advocates stated that this is rare.
Article Identifies Effective Dust Sampling Methods, Questions Current Standard
for Lead Dust on Floors
In July, a study conducted by the National Center for Healthy
Housing (NCHH) was published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental
Epidemiology. The article examines the dust lead sampling locations in
a home that are most related to children.
Key findings from the article include:
*Floor samples should be taken from the center of the room or near a door;
*Sampling living rooms is as predictive of exposure risk as sampling the room
identified as the child's play area;
*Sampling the kitchen, bedroom, or living room are all predictive locations
but sampling baths is not as predictive; and
*Sampling unit entry ways is predictive of exposure risk, but a different floor
dust lead standard would be appropriate since these floor areas are higher than
other floors in the home.
In general, the article raises questions about the current
floor standard of 40 µg/ft2, suggesting it is not adequately protective.
The findings also raise questions about whether sampling window sills or troughs
is useful to measure exposure risk, although the authors recognize that sampling
these surfaces can help identify sources of hazards and confirm that lead hazard
reduction treatments were adequately conducted.
The Alliance for Healthy Homes thanks all Alliance
Alert readers who have made recent contributions. The response to the Alliance’s
fundraising campaign is impressive and will help us continue our work to ensure
that every American has the opportunity to live in a healthy home. Those who
are interested in contributing to the Alliance but have not already done so
can visit www.afhh.org/misc/misc_contrib.htm
and have the option of donating via credit card online or via check through
the U.S. Mail.
The State of Asthma in the District conference will occur
on September 13 in Washington, DC. The target audience for this conference is
inclusive of all lead agencies, community partners, and key stakeholders working
to control asthma in the District. Health care professionals, public health
professionals, non-governmental organizations, state, and federal agencies are
welcome to participate. The morning plenary session will focus on initiatives
in the District, and the afternoon plenary session will include a regional and
national overview of asthma control practices. There will also be four small
group sessions: (1) Pediatric Asthma, (2) Environmental and Occupational Asthma,
(3) Health Education/Community Initiatives, and (4) Health Services and Quality
Assurance. The conference is free, and breakfast and lunch will be provided.
For more information and updates, see www.gwu.edu/~macche/dcasthmaconference.
The North Central Regional Conference on Eliminating Childhood
Lead Poisoning, Implementing Healthy Homes Programs, and Combating Indoor Environmental
Hazards will be held September 28 – 29 in Arlington Heights, IL (near
Chicago). Conference details will be available soon at www.leadmoldconferences.com.
The 2006 CDC National Lead Poisoning Prevention Partners'
Conference will be held in Savannah, GA, October 11-13. The theme of the conference
is "Reaching Elimination and Stretching Beyond" highlighting CDC’s
commitment to the elimination of childhood lead poisoning by 2010 and to the
future of children's environmental health. The goal of the conference is to
provide knowledge and increase programmatic skills for CDC-funded programs.
In addition, the conference will provide a forum for exchange of information
so that childhood lead poisoning prevention programs can further develop plans
and policies to eliminate childhood lead poisoning and reduce the adverse impacts
of housing on children’s health. Staff of state and local CLPPPs, other
interested state and local agency staff, federal agency staff, and advocacy
groups working on lead poisoning prevention are all invited to attend. For more
information, visit https://www.lppconf.org/home.html.
The Mid-Atlantic Center for Children's Health and the Environment
will hold its 4th Annual Conference on Children's Health and the Environment
in Pittsburgh, PA, on October 21. The conference will address clinically important
issues in children's health that are affected by the environment. Children of
all ages, including those in the fetal stages of development, can be affected
by environmental hazards. Exposure to environmental toxins via air, water, food
or soil can have a significant impact on the health of children. The conference
will focus on the following areas: the built environment, heavy metals exposure
and neurocognitive issues, cancer and environmental exposures and newborn outcomes
and environmental exposures. For information on this year’s conference,
or contact Aurora Amoah, MPH, at 202-994-1166 or email@example.com.
The Northeast Regional Conference on Eliminating Childhood
Lead Poisoning, Implementing Healthy Homes Programs, and Combating Indoor Environmental
Hazards occurs November 1-3 in Providence, RI. For conference details, see www.leadmoldconferences.com.
The 2006 Environmental Public Health Conference, presented
by Centers for Disease Control's National Center for Environmental Health, will
be held in Atlanta December 4-6. The conference theme is "Advancing Environmental
Public Health: Science, Practice, New Frontiers." For more information,
The 6th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth: Building
Safe, Healthy and Livable Communities Conference will be held in Los Angeles,
February 8-10, 2007. The conference hosts a variety of participants and speakers
who cross disciplines to share experiences and insights, and valuable tools
and strategies to encourage smart growth implementation. Public health is one
important discipline that has begun to recognize smart growth as a viable solution
to improve our nation’s health. To view more information on this conference,
The International Conference on Developmental Toxicity
and Fetal Programming will take place May 20-24, 2007, in Tórshavn, Faroe
Islands (located in the North Atlantic). This international conference emphasizes
a) the developmental perspective, i.e., the risks during different developmental
stages, from preconception to adolescence, from toxic substances; b) the environmental
perspective, i.e., the impacts of different environmental hazards; and c) the
disease perspective, i.e., long-term health implications. For further information,
please visit www.pptox.dk.
The Healthy Homes Training Center is offering its Essentials
for Healthy Homes Practitioners course in various locations across the country
in September. The course will be available September 11 and 12 in Baltimore;
September 12 and 13 Chicago; and September 19-20 and September 21-22 in Indianapolis.
For more information about these courses, visit www.healthyhomestraining.org/upcoming.htm.
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