Talking About Lead in School Drinking Water with D.C. Councilmember Cheh’s Staff

Recently I had the good fortune to meet with knowledgeable staff from D.C. Councilmember (CM) Mary Cheh of Ward 3’s office and discussed D.C.’s efforts to eliminate lead in school and daycare drinking water.  A recent amendment to the Childhood Lead Exposure Prevention Act of 2017 expands mandatory water testing and remediation beyond public schools to recreation centers, charter schools and daycare centers in the District.  The amendment also changes the action level for lead in drinking water from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommended level of 1 part per billion (ppb) to 5 ppb---the FDA’s action level for bottled water.

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Talking About Lead in School Drinking Water with D.C.’s Deputy Mayor for Education’s Office

I recently had the privilege to meet with staff from D.C.’s Deputy Mayor for Education’s Office and representatives from the Department of General Services and District of Columbia Public Schools.  These folks work to keep lead out of school drinking water and protect D.C. children from ingesting this toxic substance while in school.  Last year D.C. lowered its action level for lead in school drinking water from 15 parts per billion (ppb) to 1 ppb.  In so doing, the Department of General Services (DGS) was tasked to place a filter, which would filter lead out of the water, on each water source throughout the entire school district. 

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FACTs About Low Lead Level Exposures

New studies and re-interpretation of past studies demonstrates that it is not possible to determine a threshold below which BLL is not inversely related to IQ. [2]

Elevated BLLs are associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and antisocial behavior, which in turn increase the likelihood of conduct disorder.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has gradually lowered the blood lead level of concern (the BLL where intervention is recommended) from 60 ug/dL (600 ppb) in 1960 to 10 ug/dL (100 ppb) in 1991. 

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Talking About Lead in School Drinking Water with D.C. Councilmember Allen

We are starting a new blog series called "Talking About Lead in School Drinking Water" where we will highlight meetings with community leaders who are involved in this issue and trying to make a positive difference.  I had the pleasure of meeting Councilmember Charles Allen of Ward 6 and his staff last week to talk about D.C.'s actions to combat lead in school drinking water.  CM Allen is very knowledgable on this issue and wants to see D.C. take a proactive stand against lead in school drinking water.  

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Getting Toxins Out of Your Life: Finding the Right Sunscreen

A few months ago I wrote about toxins present in sunscreen and what to avoid.  I recently came across an excellent article from Reviews.com entitled "Best Sunscreen".  This article is very well researched and expands upon my original blog post about avoiding Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) in sunscreen.  Through testing and ingredient examination Reviews.com found that the following are the "best sunscreens".

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FACTs and Myths: Lead Present in Nashville, TN School Drinking Water

FACT seeks to educate citizens on the real issues surrounding lead in school drinking water.  Oftentimes we find that school administrators, school districts, policymakers, and reporters are misinformed on this issue and therefore, mislead in the public on lead test results and remediation actions.  Phil Williams from Channel 5 news in Nashville, TN is not one of those misinformed reporters.  His piece entitled "Test Show Lead in Metro Schools' Drinking Water" is well researched and exposes the dangerous myths that this school district attempts to spin into fact.  We applaud Mr. Williams and his exceptional reporting.  Take a moment to watch the below segment and see how many myths you can spot.

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Getting Toxic Chemicals Out of Your Life: Lead in Baby Food

A new study by the Environmental Defense Fund evaluated data collected by the Food and Drug Administration from 2003 to 2013 and found that 20 percent of baby food samples tested had detectable levels of lead.  This is very scary and every parent should be concerned.  According to the NPR article “Lead Detected in Baby Food Samples.  Pediatricians Say There’s No Safe Level”, the study included 2,164 baby food samples. They found 89 percent of grape juice samples, 86 percent of sweet potatoes samples and 47 percent of teething biscuits samples contained detectable levels of lead.

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Testing for Lead Exposure

A recent New York Times article entitledF.D.A. Warns of Faulty Lead Testing in Children and Mothers brought to my attention that blood lead tests taken after 2014 that used Magellan Diagnostics to analyze the blood may be faulty.  The concern is that the tests may have underestimated blood lead levels in tests done by drawing blood from the vein.  There are two ways blood can be drawn for lead tests 1) by pricking the finger or heel (capillary) or 2) drawing blood from the vein.  The tests drawn from the vein that used Magellan Diagnostics seem to be the ones that are providing faulty results.  Although the capillary tests are acceptable it is recommended that if the test shows signs of lead in the blood then the test should be followed up with a venous test. 

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Getting Toxic Chemicals Out of Your Life: Canned Food

So why avoid canned food?  Cans with BPA linings are a common source of exposure to BPA. Scientists from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration who studied BPA exposure in 2011 stated that BPA “migrates into can contents during processing and storage.”  BPA was first synthesized by chemists in the 1890s and in the 1930s chemists identified it as an artificial estrogen, a chemical that can affect the body like the natural human hormone--an Endocrine Disrupting Chemical (EDC).  EDCs alter the body’s natural hormones by mimicking thyroid and sex hormones and have been associated with a wide variety of health problems, including altered brain and nervous system development and changes in the reproductive system. Pregnant women and the developing fetus, children and teens may be most at risk from exposures to BPA from canned foods. In California, state scientists in 2015 unanimously agreed that BPA should be added to the state’s list of chemicals known to cause birth defects.

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Getting Toxic Chemicals Out of Your Life---Children's Toys

Toddlers and infants are natural explorers and love to place objects in their mouths, especially when teething.  Manufacturers put chemicals in almost all products, sadly children’s toys are no exception.  You can research this issue until blue in the face and still uncover toys and chemicals to avoid.  After extensively looking into this issue my family has adopted some general rules around types of toys that we give to our son.  But before getting into the practical let’s discuss what chemicals/products we are trying to avoid.

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The Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program and Why We Need It

Dr. Nancy Beck has just been appointed Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and reportedly started in that position on Monday, April 17, 2017.  Dr. Beck is moving into her new position at EPA directly from her job as Senior Director, Regulatory Science Policy, Division of Regulatory & Technical Affairs at the American Chemistry Council (ACC), a position she has held since January, 2012.  ACC is the main trade association for the chemicals industry, with a membership of more than 150 chemical companies, including such behemoths as BASF, Dow, DuPont and ExxonMobil.  Dr. Beck will now be making decisions that will directly affect the financial interests of the companies represented by ACC.  And they will involve deciding whether or not the agency should take positions for which Dr. Beck has advocated on behalf of her former employer, as recently as last month. 

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Getting Toxic Chemicals Out of Your Life---Laundry Detergent

Our new series entitled Getting Toxic Chemicals Out of Your Life--we will be highlighting different products that everyone uses which contain toxic chemicals.  The idea is to provide readers information on the toxic chemicals and product alternatives that perform just as well but without the toxic substances.  This post looks at laundry detergents, they are NOT all equal and many contain excess chemicals that do not make your clothes any cleaner but will irritate your skin and contain endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). 

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Know What is in Your Sunscreen--Avoid Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

According to the Environmental Working Group, active ingredients in sunscreens come in two forms, mineral and chemical filters.  Part of FACT’s mission is to educate consumers on toxic chemicals present in everyday products.  Most concerning are chemicals that are endocrine disrupters (EDCs) as discussed in more detail here.  Lab studies indicate that some chemical UV filters may mimic hormones or cause skin allergies, which raises important questions about unintended effects on human health from frequent sunscreen application. The most worrisome is oxybenzone, added to nearly 70 percent of the non-mineral sunscreens. 

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Study Shows that Lead Exposure at Young Age Leads to Decline in Socioeconomic Status

We know that children that are exposed to lead suffer from lower IQ and decreased cognitive ability.   A recent study found that children who experienced higher lead exposures saw their intellectual ability decline from their baseline starting point as time wore on---meaning that the lead exposure continued to have a negative effect on a person’s cognitive learning abilities years after the initial exposure.

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FACTS and MYTHS: Understanding Building Dates are Crucial to Addressing Lead in School Drinking Water

A recent article, "San Diego Schools What We Know and Don't Know" details problems with lead in school drinking water in San Diego, CA school districts and states that “The water supply is not the problem.  Plumbing at facilities is.”  I recently wrote a post discussing San Diego’s testing and reporting methods, focusing on how schools are interpreting lead test results.   In our series “FACTS and MYTHs” we will look at this article and highlight where additional information is needed. 

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The Recipe Space: Powerful Oatmeal!

The health benefits of oatmeal are numerous--according to the USDA, oatmeal is high in essential minerals including calcium, iron, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, sodium and zinc.  Each of these minerals offers a different developmental benefit to your baby. For example, calcium and phosphorous are useful for building bones; iron is useful for increased hemoglobin production; magnesium helps in energy generation, has a role in bone and dental health, acts as a laxative, etc. Potassium and sodium are known to be electrolytes, which facilitate electrical activity in the brain, spinal cord and in all the muscles.  Oats are also high in vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, folate, vitamin B-6, vitamin K and vitamin E.  These vitamins also promote various activities in the body and are much needed for child growth and development.  Importantly oatmeal is high in dietary fiber.  This dietary fiber is generally not digested, it soaks up water in the colon and adds bulk to the stool and helps in easy bowel movement. Free and regular bowel movement promotes appetite in babies.

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FACTS and MYTHS: Misinformation on Lead Testing in San Diego Schools

Knowing that there is a problem does not get us any closer to solving it; however, understanding the problem and being armed with the right questions to ask will get us closer to finding an answer.  Our new blog series entitled “FACTS and MYTHS” will show through examples how parents are being told that water is “safe” in schools without providing the full story. 

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Toxic Chemicals are Stagnating Human Reproduction

An increasing proportion of sperm, 90 percent in a typical young man, are now misshapen, some even having two heads or two tails.  Those correctly shaped often do not swim well.  And over the last 75 years, sperm counts have dropped quickly.  In one study, sperm donor applicants in 2001 in Hunan Provence, China qualified for donation at a rate of 56 percent.  In 2015, the qualified rate plummeted to 18 percent.  Put simply, EDCs are threatening our ability to reproduce in the future.  A significant number of men will be unable to reproduce in the next generation if measures are not taken to reduce our exposure to EDCs.  This should be a public health emergency.  Aggressive regulation is needed to reduce and control the use of EDCs in our everyday products like cleaning solutions, soaps, perfumes and lotions, to name a few.   

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Nationwide Problem: Myths about Lead in Drinking Water

Part of the problem is the number itself, the EPA’s action level is 15ppb so that must mean something and one would presume it is somehow tied to health.  The number does mean something, it is found in the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule of 1991 and is the lowest level where corrosion control treatment (CCT) is effective.

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Nationwide Problem: Arlington, VA Elementary School Demonstrates Discrepancies in Lead Test Results

In this example, children who literally go to school across the river are exposed to more lead because their school’s remediation level is higher than schools mere miles away.  How is this fair to families and children?  Look closely at this graphic and you will see that water sources that tested above 1ppb on the first draw at Jamestown Elementary School is 69 out of 109—63%.  The number of water sources remediated after the testing is 19—only 17%. 

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