Lead Poisoning

Michigan Lead Safe Partnership: Working to keep Michigan's kids safe through action and awareness.

Lead Poisoning

Working to keep Michigan's kids safe through action and awareness.

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 Lead Poisoning in the News

! A decade before Flint's lead scare, there was Rhode Island !
(February 22, 2016, Marquette Mining Journal) PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Lisa Solano-Sanchez looks at her 16-year-old son and sees a bright, healthy, musically gifted teenager. A relief, considering she had no idea how he would turn out when she discovered he was poisoned by lead as a toddler. Still, she scrutinizes her son's behavior and can't help but wonder if he's been held back from his full potential. "Not knowing drives me crazy," she said. A decade before Flint, Michigan, there was Rhode Island, a tiny state that took a daring plunge by suing the paint industry to seek money for cleaning up a danger lurking on walls and windowsills in up to 80 percent of its homes. The landmark lawsuit reverberates today not only in Flint, but also in California, where 10 cities and counties are fighting to hold onto a $1.1 billion victory over the same industry. Though the lawsuit remains influential, Rhode Island has little to show for its short-lived triumph on Feb. 22, 2006. Two years later, the state's highest court unanimously overturned the verdict, saying the paint industry couldn't be held responsible. "My heart is still broken at the Supreme Court's decision that I still today cannot understand or justify," said Democratic U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the former Rhode Island attorney general who had initiated the case. Studies have tied lead poisoning to permanent damage to children's brains and conditions including lowered intelligence, learning disabilities and behavioral problems. Symptoms can take years to manifest and be hard to confirm. Leaded paint, easily ingested by children whose fingers touch contaminated dust or who pick up sweet-tasting flakes that end up in their mouth, was a known danger and outlawed in the late 1970s. Rhode Island was hardly the only place with potentially exposed children, but in a compact and old state with an elderly housing stock, the threat was especially acute. In 1999, when Rhode Island first sued, more than 2,300 children under 6 years old, nearly 7 percent of all those tested in the state, were found to have dangerously elevated levels of lead , according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By 2014, that number had dropped to 217, just under 1 percent of all the children tested statewide — but still 40 percent above the national rate. Education campaigns helped, health experts say, as did government subsidies for remediation and laws that put more responsibility on landlords. But blood tests still find more than 1,000 new cases each year of children with elevated levels. Few families were immune, especially in poorer areas populated by racial minorities — a connection also seen in Flint, where the culprit is the water supply. "Lead poisoning would have been wiped out" if the problem had been concentrated in wealthier and whiter neighborhoods, said Roberta Hazen Aaronson, founder and director of the Childhood Lead Action Project. "It's not an equal-opportunity disease," she said. But wealthier families did fall victim. Donna Lizotte thought she and her husband knew what they were doing when they bought a stately Victorian a decade ago in the desirable Edgewood district of Cranston and painted over old layers. Later, their daughter was found to have 23 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. Federal health officials have said there is no safe level of lead in children's blood, but that anything above 5 micrograms is high. The family found evidence she had scratched at a wall near her crib. "I thought lead poisoning was something that happened in dilapidated rental units," said Lizotte, an educator and scientist with a doctorate in molecular biology. "Honestly, I think I was just naive." Now 10, the girl has attention deficit disorder, something correlated with lead poisoning, and other conditions. "Here we are, 40 years later, it's still everywhere," she said. "I think the companies owe it to the children that are sick to fix it." Most companies began phasing out lead-based pigments decades before the U.S. banned them in residential paint in 1978. Plaintiffs have said the companies and the now-defunct Lead Industries Association, a trade group that declared bankruptcy during Rhode Island's litigation, should have stopped promoting and selling the paint earlier because some of lead's damaging effects had been known for a century. Whitehouse — whose own two children had elevated lead levels — sued on the state's behalf in 1999. It ended in a hung jury and mistrial, and was followed by a second trial argued by Whitehouse's successor. A jury found three companies liable: Sherwin-Williams, Millennium Holdings and NL Industries. After the industry appealed, Rhode Island's highest court recognized the long-term health consequences but dismissed the theory that a problem in homes and apartment buildings was a public nuisance for which paint companies were liable. The judges declared it landlords' responsibility to keep homes safe. Courts and state officials elsewhere scrapped lawsuits that sought to hold manufacturers responsible for the windfall of cash needed to repair hazardous housing stock. Only in California, where 10 cities and counties are defending a $1.1 billion victory, could paint companies still be liable for the lead in pigments they sold decades ago. Plaintiffs there are working with the same firm, Motley Rice, that Rhode Island hired and before that took on the asbestos and tobacco industries. A phone call Friday to NL Industries rang unanswered and an email went unreturned. Millennium Holdings has declared bankruptcy. Dale Leibach, a spokesman for Sherwin-Williams, declined to comment but pointed to the website www.leadlawsuits.com, which describes California's ruling as "the aberration" that unfairly holds companies liable for creating a durable product that was in high demand. "This litigation by hindsight has failed nationwide," the website says, calling attention to the outcome in Rhode Island. Despite the loss, Rhode Island's lawsuit was an "important and innovative piece of litigation" that "demonstrated that a lot of the paint companies knew what was going on. They knew there were hazards and they continued selling the product," said Erik Olson, an attorney who directs the health program of the Natural Resources Defense Council, which was not involved in the litigation. "It showed that there was a pretty reasonable argument that this was one way to get the resources to have their housing cleaned up," Olson said, "that the companies that created the problem ought to have a hand in cleaning it up."

! Vendors Urge Relaxed Lead-Safety Rule !
Manufacturers and retailers of children’s products are asking Congress to relax strict new requirements on the allowable lead content in their products. Many smaller retailers claim that they cannot afford to pay for the testing new legislation would require and fear that the February 2009 deadline will devastate sales, inventory, and credit.

! WI Milwaukee Loses Appeal in Lead Paint Lawsuit !
The city of Milwaukee lost an appeal in a lawsuit against a former lead paint manufacturer. The lawsuit would have required the company to pay for the cleanup of 11,000 properties ($52.6 million).

! Realtors Violated Lead Paint Disclosure Rules !
The corporate owners of Coldwell Banker real estate brokerage offices in four New England states face fines of up to $1.1 million for violating lead paint disclosure rules, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday. Inspections and a review of documents by the EPA uncovered 102 violations of disclosure rules committed by Coldwell Banker offices owned by NRT New England LLC of Waltham, Mass., and Coldwell Banker Real Estate Services LLC of Parsippany, N.J.

! EPA Weakens New Lead Control Rules After White House Objects !
After the White House intervened, the Environmental Protection Agency last week weakened a rule on airborne lead standards at the last minute so that fewer known polluters would have their emissions monitored. The White House Office of Management and Budget objected to the way the EPA would have some facilities, such as lead-emitting battery recycling plants, monitored.

! EPA Places Stricter Regulations on Airborne Lead !
The Environmental Protection Agency tightened the regulatory limit on airborne lead for the first time in 30 years, lowering the legal maximum to a tenth of what it was on the grounds that it poses a more serious threat to young children than officials had realized.

! Even Tiny Lead Levels are Bad !

"There is no safe level of lead in the blood in terms of effects on the brain. Any amount of lead has the potential to affect neurobehavioral performance."

! High Calcium Levels During Pregnancy Lowers Fetal Lead Levels  !
Women who consume high levels of daily calcium supplements during pregnancy show a marked reduction in lead levels in their blood, according to a new study, which suggests that calcium could play a critical role in reducing fetal and infant exposure.

! 2008 Health Plus Lead Alert !

! Bush Signs Consumer Bill; Boosts Funding, Cuts Lead !
Legislation aimed at improving U.S. consumer product safety after millions of Chinese-made toys were recalled last summer was signed into law by President George W. Bush on Thursday. The measure dramatically cuts the amount of lead allowed in toys and other children's products, increases funding for the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and partially bans controversial plastic-softening chemicals called phthalates.

! Lawyers in R.I. Lead Paint Case Argue Court Costs !
A lawyer for Rhode Island said that three former lead paint companies should not be allowed to recoup costs from a nine-year legal fight with the state that ended last month in their favor. The state Supreme Court in July overturned a landmark jury verdict that found Sherwin-Williams Co. and two other companies responsible for creating a public nuisance. The three companies now want to recover they money they spent defending the lawsuit, which was filed in 1999, though they have not specified the precise amount.

! Updated Recall List: Lead in Children's Toys and Products (7-11-08) !

! Childhood Lead Exposure Associated With Criminal Behavior in Adulthood !
New research from the University of Cincinnati (UC) reports the first evidence of a direct link between prenatal and early-childhood lead exposure and an increased risk for criminal behavior later in life.

! Know Your Home……Protect Your Family from Lead Poisoning (PDF) !
As summertime approaches, many of us focus on improving our home environments. As you begin to open and close your windows and doors, paint, or renovate your home, be aware of the age of the property you are working on; If it was built before 1978, it can be a source of lead-based paint exposure.

! RI High-stakes Lead Paint Case to Rhode Island Supreme Court !
Three companies that once made lead paint have spent nearly a decade fighting off a lawsuit that could force them to pay billions to clean up contaminated properties. The case heads to the Rhode Island Supreme Court on Thursday, more than two years after a jury found that Sherwin-Williams, NL Industries Inc. and Millennium Holdings LLC were liable for creating a public nuisance in the first verdict of its kind.

! MI Local Churches Lead Charge Against Lead Poisoning (PDF) !
Cleansing Saginaw area homes of their lead poisoning potential sits atop the agenda for some local religious leaders. The Faith Based Lead Poisoning Prevention Project stemmed from these individuals’ desire to improve public health, said the Rev. Marvin Smith, pastor of Mount Olive Institutional Baptist Church.

! District Connects Lead with Special Ed !
Galveston Independent School District has too many African-American students in its special education program, a problem that has earned the island’s schools extra scrutiny from the Texas Education Agency.

! Plan to Eliminate Childhood Lead Poisoning in Michigan !
Michigan Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention and Control Commission, June 30, 2007

! Wisconsin Lead Lawsuits go to U.S. Court !

! Too Many Children on Medicaid Not Tested for Lead Poisoning !
In Ohio HMOs are paid a lump sum fee, in advance, for delivery of Medicaid services. Researchers at the Government Accounting Office found that the system creates "an incentive to underserve or even deny beneficiaries access to needed care since plans ... can profit from not delivering services" (GAO 1997). Some 47,000 Medicaid-eligible children are born in Ohio each year (OHPa 2004). Considering this profit incentive not to screen, it is not surprising that in Ohio, the blood lead screening rate for one and two year-olds has yet to exceed 40% despite the requirement for HMOs to screen 100% of these children.

! MI Michigan Lead Commission Report (PDF) !
The Report to the Legislature from the Michigan Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention and Control Commission has been released and is now available online.

! MI Key Differences Among Professional Lead Services (PDF) !
This chart explains the differences among the 3 types of professional services available to detect lead in your home - the Lead Hazard Screen, the Lead Inspection, and the Risk Assessment.

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[Childhood Lead Poisoning in Michigan Fact Sheet compiled by the MLSP

[General Lead Poisoning Information [Who Is At Risk? [Law & Regulations

[Find the Lead Poisoning Information Coordinator in Your Michigan County]

[National Resources & Websites]  [Lead Poisoning in the News]  [Medical Information]

 

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