POLLUTION:: A Firsthand Account of the Ravages of Lead Poisoning – A warning to St. Andrews, NB

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You may remember that residents of Charlotte County, NB in general and St. Andrews in particular, were horrified to learn that an aggregate mining company at the Bayside Port had gained permission to dump surplus materials along the upper reaches of a principal stream leading to Chamcook Lake; the principal source of domestic water for the town and surrounding areas. The horror was raised to disbelief when it was learned that high levels of lead and other pollutants were draining directly into the lake. The public outcry forced the provincial government to shut down the dumping and have the materials returned to the mining area on the banks of the St. Croix Estuary. There is little doubt the pollutants ended up  there and perhaps continue to seep into the Estuary where they enter the marine food chain. There seems to be little concern about that from the authorities.

This work by the Conservation Law Foundation is a reminder of what can happen and serves as a warning to St. Andrews and other communities that don’t insist on proper control of environmentally sensitive operations of all kinds.

Minamata Disease is truly ugly. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minamata_disease

My opinion tonight. Art

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English: Dense metaphyseal lines from lead poi...

English: Dense metaphyseal lines from lead poisoning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

http://www.clf.org/blog/tag/lead-poisoning-series/

A Firsthand Account of the Ravages of Lead Poisoning

Posted: 18 Feb 2015 02:11 PM PST

On February 17, New Hampshire’s Senate Health & Human Services Committee held a public hearing on SB 135, a bill designed to better protect New Hampshire kids from the continuing threat of lead poisoning. The Committee heard strong support for SB 135 from a broad range of interests. Joan Valk, a Family Support Specialist at Child Family Services, was the last person to testify. Because her firsthand observations of the problem of lead poisoning make such a compelling case for addressing the problem of childhood lead poisoning, I thought I’d share them here in full:

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “No safe blood lead level in children has been identified,” and “lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body.” In my 14 years as a home visitor in Merrimack County, most often in and around the Franklin area, I have seen many children who suffer the effects of lead poisoning. These children all have learning delays, speech delays, and behavioral issues. They need Early Supports and Services before they get to public school and Individualized Education Plans once they get into school.

Services that they typically get are special education hours, including help with math and reading,
physical therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioral therapy. Many require a one-on-one aide to help them through the school day. Parents have to try to handle all of the appointments with medical providers, specialists, school meetings, and counselors, and somehow manage their children’s symptoms at home, dealing with behaviors that even experienced parents are at a loss of how to handle. These parents try to cope with impulsive behaviors including biting, hitting, kicking, head banging, and throwing toys and furniture. Once the children are three years old, there is a waiting list for in-home services through area agencies, so parents are left to deal with these behaviors with little or no support.

Although lead poisoning can occur in any socio-economic status, most of the families I serve are very low income, and do not have many options or alternatives to where they are living. Parents then have to deal with the guilt that, in trying to provide a home for their children, they have inadvertently contributed to their condition. I have gone into homes with cracked and peeling paint on walls, ceilings, and window sills, with parents who don’t even own a vacuum, who know that there is lead in their house, but feel like they can’t do anything about it. Or they don’t understand how harmful it can be to their children. Some parents mistakenly think that, because they were raised in a home and they are fine, that their children will be fine, too.

Parents are afraid to ask their landlord to do anything for fear that they will be kicked out of their apartments and be homeless. They are afraid to call the code enforcer. Many landlords refuse to address the issues, or address them by replacing windows or painting over the lead paint, but they don’t do it correctly and the situation becomes even more harmful for the child. Some of my clients believe that the landlord has said there is no lead paint in the home when the landlord has actually said that he/she has no knowledge of lead paint in the housing, so the parents think their children are safe when they may not be. And even if they move out, another family with children moves in and the cycle is repeated over and over again, with the children of our New Hampshire families paying the price, and New Hampshire and our schools footing the bill.

See more posts in our series about childhood lead poisoning.

The post A Firsthand Account of the Ravages of Lead Poisoning appeared first on Conservation Law Foundation.

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Childhood Lead Poisoning: A Preventable Disease

Posted: 18 Feb 2015 05:25 AM PST

In my last blog – the second in a series about childhood lead poisoning – I discussed the fact that not nearly enough kids in New Hampshire are being tested for lead in their blood. As discussed, screening is essential for determining if a child has been poisoned and, if he or she has been, for taking action to avoid further exposure.

But what about preventing lead exposure in the first place?

Not surprisingly, that’s a major recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In 2012, after affirming that no level of lead exposure is safe, and that even low levels of lead can have irreversible health impacts, the CDC determined that “primary prevention” must be pursued as an essential strategy. This means preventing exposures from happening in the first place, as opposed to managing exposures only after a child has been poisoned.

In its 2008 report, the New Hampshire Lead Study Commission adopted the following as one of its guiding principles: “New Hampshire must emphasize prevention before children get poisoned and focus on improving and maintaining safe, healthy homes. Lead poisoning is a preventable disease. The Commission reinforced that every effort must be made to focus on improving the lead safe status of New Hampshire’s housing stock. Everyone must be committed to supporting maintenance and making all homes safe and healthy so that children do not have to be exposed to lead in the first place.”

Unfortunately, even though lead poisoning is a preventable disease, New Hampshire’s lead program is largely reactive and not built on a primary-prevention approach. Here’s a typical scenario for how the current programs works:

  1. A young child is unknowingly exposed to a lead hazard – typically as a result of deteriorating lead-based paint, leading to the ingestion of lead dust from normal hand-to-mouth behavior.
  2. Assuming the child is screened (not necessarily a safe assumption), the child is found to have lead in his or her blood.
  3. If the child’s blood lead level is high enough to trigger action under New Hampshire’s lead law (10 micrograms per deciliter), the state’s Healthy Homes & Lead Prevention Program (HHLPP) opens an investigation.
  4. If the child lives in a rented dwelling, HHLPP may inspect the dwelling and, if lead hazards are found, must issue a lead hazard reduction order to the landlord, requiring the hazards to be addressed.

So, what’s wrong with this picture? We’re basically allowing kids to become poisoned first, and then requiring lead hazards to be addressed.

To prevent lead poisonings, it’s critical that lead-painted surfaces be properly maintained and not allowed to deteriorate. That’s one of the goals of SB 135, a bill pending in the NH Senate. SB 135 would establish a task force – composed of a broad range of interests – to determine the feasibility of developing an Essential Maintenance Practices program for pre-1978 rental housing and child-care facilities. Such a program could play a critical role in preventing the problem of deferred maintenance, which leads to lead hazards (such as loose and flaking paint and lead dust), which in turn leads to kids becoming poisoned and property owners facing liability.

This aspect of SB 135 is an important step in preventing New Hampshire kids from being poisoned by lead. In my next post, I’ll discuss another important aspect of SB 135 aimed at preventing lead hazards: a provision to help prevent unsafe renovation and painting practices that can result in kids being poisoned.

The post Childhood Lead Poisoning: A Preventable Disease appeared first on Conservation Law Foundation.


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