Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Musings: Get the Lead Out

It's hard to understand. Actually, it's easy to understand, within the world of politics. It's just fricking stupid. Here's what's I mean:

A lot of Hawaii kids are testing positive for exposure to high levels of lead. Yes, lead. The nasty heavy metal that impairs brain development in keiki, and causes health problems for people of any age. As the Centers for Disease Control reports: No safe level of lead exposure has been identified.
But as Sophie Cocke reported in The Star-Advertiser (it's behind a pay wall, but since this is such an important issue, I've made a copy of the article here):

The Health Department data, based on lab results of children under 3, also indicates that roughly two-thirds of young children in Hawaii aren’t being screened for lead, even though children on Medicaid are supposed to be tested at about 1 and 2 years of age, a requirement that some say should be expanded for all young children.

Why? Again, as Cocke reports:

The Health Department lost federal funding for its Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program in 2003 and largely discontinued data collection, education and prevention efforts.

The state’s Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response Office is already trying to do a better job in tracking lead cases. Health officials are using a new software system this year that will allow it to monitor cases of lead exposure in real time, track whether children are receiving follow-up testing and care, and better coordinate response efforts.

But the office still lacks an epidemiologist who could help track lead cases and study specific communities at risk. The HEER office has unsuccessfully sought funding for the position for several years, including this year.

So here we have a documented serious health problem that seems to be disproportionately affecting children on Kauai and the Big Island.

Yet Hawaii legislators aren't talking about giving more money to HEER. Instead, they're advancing a bill that would spend $3 million — correction, $6 million over two years — on implementing the Joint Fact Finding report on pesticides — even though not a single child has been documented with any exposure to seed company pesticide use.


Because the anti-GMO folks — while claiming to be concerned about keiki — have latched onto the pesticide issue. They've spent considerable time and money whipping up fears and lobbying legislators to do more to protect people from the mere possibility of pesticide harm.

Meanwhile, with lead exposure, there's a real, absolute and documented harm as kids keep eating lead dust and paint chips. Their IQ is lowered and their nervous system is damaged. For life.

Where is the public outcry from the “stop poisoning paradise, protect our keiki and kupuna” crowd?

Though we've seen dozens of videos on how agriculture is poisoning Hawaii, we haven't seen one meme about the silent and deadly impact of lead on Island communities.

Where are all the social justice advocates? Especially considering that poverty is one of the predictors of lead exposure. Why hasn't Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on their behalf, instead of those who merely live near ag fields and have no documented harm other than a dubious hair sample that showed mostly domestic pesticides?

Where are the lawmakers willing to stand up and fund what needs to be funded, as opposed to the squeaky wheel?

Sen. Josh Green gets it, according to Cocke's piece: 

He said that by the time a child suffering from lead toxicity is 4 or 5 years old, it’s too late. “They’re going to have a high probability of intellectual disability." 

But though Green has latched onto the pesticide issue like a tick, he's a do-nothing when it comes to lead.

Again, as Cocke reports:

Lawmakers this year proposed bills that would provide the Health Department with $1 million in funding for lead prevention activities, noting that the loss of CDC funding had “severely limited the department’s lead prevention efforts.”

But neither of the bills received a hearing.

Rep. Della Au Belatti proposed one of the measures, House Bill 249, but then never scheduled a hearing for it in the Health Committee, of which she is chairwoman.

Belatti said she was hoping that the Senate version would move.

The Senate measure, Senate Bill 113, was referred to Sen. Rosalyn Baker’s Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health Committee. Baker didn’t respond to a request to comment on why she didn’t hear the bill.

Belatti said there was a chance that funding for lead prevention could be inserted into the department’s budget, which is being debated by the Legislature, but she suggested that it was up to the Health Department to advocate for it.

I think we need to rely on the Department of Health to raise the alarm,” she said.

Come on, Della. You call yourself an advocate for women and kids, and you can't even schedule a hearing on your own bill? Surely you can do better than that!

And that goes for all the "warriors" and "protectors" who are so busy jumping on the cause du jour that they're missing the real danger in our midst.

But then, there's no money for groups in sounding the alarm about lead. So nothing gets done, and nothing gets said.


Anonymous said...

From Gary Hooser:

We continue working tirelessly with the Center for Food Safety, Hawaii Seed and other partners to support meaningful public policy change at the State legislature to improve the health of our communities and hold the chemical companies accountable for the harm they cause daily.

On the legal front our friends at Earthjustice continue to take action to protect our water, and defend disadvantaged communities from the environmental abuse that accompany industrial chemical intensive food systems - our so-called good neighbors.

Send him a copy of the Advertiser article.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post and point Joan.

As a father of three toddlers; Kauai needs to address this now!

Lead, Meth, and other education issues are so much more important than the pesticide, GMO, and Dairy issues.

Priorities out of whack

Anonymous said...

This is disturbing. Nobody knows where the lead in coming from? Air, ocean, water. Old buildings being renovated causing dust in the air?

Anonymous said...

@ 8:58am, good one....i agree

Joan Conrow said...

@9:10 It's not in the water, as the water is tested. It's most likely coming from paint and dust in old houses. Even if they aren't being renovated, it's still present. Some of it could also be coming from old water pipes in those homes.

Anonymous said...

Good read:


Anonymous said...

Yes many homes have old galvanized plumbing....tile on the floors...asbestos.. and at one time because of mildew people were using Marine paint to paint homes....

Anonymous said...

The issue has to do with "land"... The realtors want to get rid of the Chem people so they can have more real estate to make their money. Lead poisoning is not a "land" issue. Lead poisoning is real. Roundup may cause.........you know the word "may". There is no money to be made in the "lead" fight. When I tell you I am going to spray "poison", what you going do........I let you know so just in case you "may" get sick you know what I sprayed.

Anonymous said...

Why must this be framed as one over the other? There is no shortage of issues that need addressed. Lead, pesticides, water diversion, water pollution from cow poop run-off, affordable housing, shoreline protection, cats killing birds, climate change, war etc. Just because someone supports and focuses on one specific issue and not another, should not diminish the effort. Joan, why don't you follow your own advice and take on the "anti lead" issue with the same fervor that you apply to defending the chemical companies? Given the power of your pen, if you gave it the same attention you currently give supporting gmo's, you could really impact this issue and make a tangible difference in improving the health of children on Kauai.

Joan Conrow said...

It's framed as "one over the other" because the state has limited resources. Currently, there is no $ on the table for the lead program, but there is for the pesticide issue, which has been hyped. So you're being a bit disingenuous when you claim "Just because someone supports and focuses on one specific issue and not another, should not diminish the effort."

And I wasn't actually issuing any advice. I was pointing out the craziness of manufacturing an issue when there is a real one.

Dave Smith said...

Some of it is coming from the water, at least in some Big Island home catchment systems. Volcanic emissions leach lead into the water from lead-headed nails and lead solder that wasn't phased out until the 1990s. We're talking thousands of older homes here.

Joan Conrow said...

Thanks for mentioning that, Dave. I recall the catchment systems being an issue more than 20 years ago, when I was reporting on the Big Island.

To clarify, I meant the Kauai Department of Water does test for lead at its sources of supply.

Anonymous said...

I had my child tested for lead years ago when DOE demanded Ritalin for a little kid. I was called a crazy parent, but when I finally found a pediatrician willing to do so, the results were shocking. (Didn't do a mail-in hair test. Did blood, urine & hair at licensed lab.) Treatment followed, paid by my insurance. Fortunately, the worse problems were avoided because we caught it early. However, toddler testing would have stopped it in its tracks.

The CDC and EPA have info on lead sources such as: https://www.epa.gov/lead/lead-toys-and-toy-jewelry

Anonymous said...

Two wrongs doesn't make one right because the other is ignored, or in this case products containing lead have been banned already.

Anonymous said...

Banning the lead-containing products hasn't solved the problem, as evidenced by the hundreds of Hawai'i children with lead in their blood from recent exposure. There are plenty of pre-1979-construction houses with lead paint that are still around, with more paint deteriorating and chipping off each year, if it hasn't already been sanded into an invisible toxic dust that floats in the air and coats every surface.

Also, lead-containing products haven't been completely banned. Any product not specifically marketed for young children can still have lead. Keys, window blinds, the vinyl coating on all kinds of electrical cords, pottery, ceramic, paints and glazes, wood varnish, fishing sinkers, birdshot, diving weights, crystal, pewter, the glass screens of old TVs and computer monitors, contaminated soil, metal jewelry, novelties such as "rubber" duckies, solder, PVC, the silvery lines between panes of stained glass, toilet base rings, garden hoses, faucets (even those labeled "lead free" can be up to 8% lead by weight) - these potential lead sources are all still around, most of them still being made with (or entirely of) lead.

Lead screening prevents brain damage by alerting parents to search for the source of exposure and eliminate it early on. Advocating for millions of dollars to be expended chasing a non-existent problem, while children suffer irreparable harm from undetected lead poisoning due to lack of funding, is absolutely indefensible.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure 100% of people against pesticides are against lead too

Anonymous said...

Those dummies in the Kauai water dept wouldn't know how to test if the liquid is piss or apple juice.

Anonymous said...

What part of the island are kids most affected? Is there a breakdown?

Anonymous said...

Where are kid most affected? Is there a breakdown?

Anonymous said...

Ingested lead at sizes that might be normally encountered has no detected serious affects on large mammals at any age level. The reported paint ingestion of lead and resultant retardation of black infants and children has never been replicated in a large mammal. The inhalation of atmospheric Tetraethyl lead is an entirely different manner. Not good, in short.
Humans live primarily in a metallic natural environment. The idea that our resistance to the vast majority of pure metallic elements is very low is ridiculous. Our planet is made of metal. Like all mammals, humans have some tolerance to the common elements. Albeit, somethings are simply poisonous.

Anonymous said...

2:36, tumeric was recalled last August due to lead. Barbie accessories, children's craft kits and musical instruments were recalled in 2016. Plus as 3:50 points out, lead isn't banned in numerous products.

Anonymous said...

3/7 @ 4:43 PM, then why aren't they working to solve an actual problem that is well-documented and not under dispute, rather than making baseless accusations and ignoring the science around pesticides? And why are they only concerned with pesticides that are used in agriculture while ignoring those used in structural pest control, golf courses, schools, right of way, and home use?

Anonymous said...

It is DOH that periodically tests for lead With their lead and copper program not necessarily the water provider. If the water provider doesn't control pH and there water is too acidic, they will leach lead from home piping if present. So it very well could be the water provider causing lead problems in addition to other environmental factors.

Anonymous said...

The biggest difference between lead and pesticides appears to be very clear. There is no fear mongering with lead. We have "scientific" proof what lead does to the Human body. With pesticides comes the fear mongrels. They use high tech words like "may" cause..............watch our what minds you are poisoning.

Anonymous said...

Aloha Joan,

Interesting blog. However not sure why you chose to use a photo of our Brydeswood Ranch sign. This property hasn't been used for anything except grazing cattle and horses since Iniki (1992). No one is claiming it is poisoned in an effort to sell it cheaply. Another brokerage attempted to sell it as individual ag lots in 2012-13. But developing the infrastructure was an issue. So it is now being sold as one piece. The interest we are getting are from folks who want the whole piece for farming and personal use. Please do your homework before implicating a location or individuals in your articles. Mahalo Nui, Susan

Joan Conrow said...

Hi Susan,
I think you meant to live your comment on today's post. At any rate, I had this photo in my file as an example of Hawaii Life moving onto the west side. Thanks for the update!

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Anonymous 3/7 at 8:58am. As a father with two young kids, I'm much more concerned about schools, prevalence of drugs and addiction, lead poisoning, and keeping housing affordable than with GMO crops and pesticides. Where are our priorities? Why isn't the same time and energy invested in these issues? These are what will define the biggest building blocks of the quality of life. Am I concerned about pesticide toxins and pollution? Yes, but given the mandatory reporting and regulations already in place, I'd rather see more energy go to educating kids, caring for kupuna, and keeping people housed and employed.

Anonymous said...

LOL Hawaii Life's residential subdivision offers opportunities for "conservation." What PR hack wrote that?