Author Archives: Sarah Vogel

Washington Post looks at the long and painful history of Lead in Drinking Water rule

Sarah Vogel, Ph.D.is Vice-President for Health.

If you missed last week’s Washington Post piece, “The EPA’s lead-in-water rule has been faulted for decades. Will Flint hasten a change?”  we suggest you go back and take a look. Post reporter Brady Dennis takes us back to the beginning to figure out how a federal rule intended to help ensure safe drinking water nationwide faltered, and why it has taken so long to fix.

In 1991, EPA issued the Lead and Copper Rule to reduce lead in drinking water that primarily relied on corrosion control. But initial progress stalled and the rules shortcomings became clear. As EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy explained at a recent hearing, the rule “needs to be strengthened.” Critics claim the outdated rule has become too easy to evade and too hard to enforce.

EPA now is developing an overhaul of the rule. Given the complexity and scope of the challenge, as my colleague Tom Neltner points out, the stakes are high and the agency needs to get it right.

Neltner should know. He served on the expert panel advising the EPA National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC) which looked at the rule’s flaws. For example, EPA’s original “lead action level” was based on whether or not corrosion control was working and not on the health risk. The group Neltner served on recommended establishing a new health-based “household action level” that will empower people to make informed choices about how to manage their risk to lead hazards in water. In February 2015, EPA agreed to develop an estimated level for the panel to consider. Given the consumer’s need for the number as a result of Flint, EDF has urged that the agency move quickly to release the household action level.

EPA has indicated the lead rule update will be issued in 2017. But with bipartisan Hill support and a new Presidential Administration on the horizon, many are anxious to see it move faster.

Posted in Drinking Water, EPA, Flint, lead, Regulation, Uncategorized| Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments are closed

No Safe Level: Old pipes and paint threaten the health of America’s children

Sarah Vogel, Ph.D.is Vice-President for Health.

Since the crisis in Flint hit the national headlines, the problem of lead exposure from drinking water has come under greater scrutiny. And for good reason. Seven to ten million American homes have water delivered through service lines made of lead pipe – the primary source of lead in drinking water. But the events in Flint also highlight the fact that despite decades of decline in the levels of lead in the blood of American children, we still have a lead problem in this country. Given that there is no safe level of exposure to lead, we have a lot of work to do. The current crisis offers a new opportunity to make significant progress, and we have a record of past achievement to learn from and build upon.

Forty years ago over 13 million young children in American had blood lead levels at or above 10 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL). By 2000, that number had decreased to just under a half a million. The greatest reductions made were among low income and children of color who had the highest blood lead levels. As a result of such significant progress, many declared victory and organizations, including EDF, shifted their focus to other environmental health issues leaving considerable work still to be done on lead.

While blood lead levels were declining, scientific evidence was mounting to show there is no safe level of exposure to lead in infants and young children. Studies showed that adverse neurological effects were happening at lower and lower levels of lead exposure. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reduced the level of lead in blood used to identify those with elevated exposure to 5 µg/dL. Today, approximately 500,000 children have levels at or above 5 µg/dL.

Despite the major declines in children’s blood lead levels at or above 10 µg/dL and decreases in racial and income disparities since the mid-1970s, progress has stalled over the past decade. And still disparities persist. Children living in poverty remain at the greatest risk. Indeed, children in poor households are three times more likely, and African-American children are twice as likely as white children, to have elevated blood lead levels. Read More »

Posted in Drinking Water, EPA, Flint, Health Policy, Health Science, lead, Regulation| Tagged , , | Read 2 Responses

New bill puts BPA back in the spotlight

Sarah Vogel, Ph.D., is Director of EDF's Health Program.

The hotly debated chemical BPA is back in the policy spotlight. This week Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass) joined Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA) and Grace Meng (D-NY) to announce the Ban Poisonous Additives (BPA) Act.  The bill would ban the use of BPA or bisphenol A from food packaging and mandates extensive consideration of the hazardous properties of any BPA alternative, so as to avoid substituting chemicals that may pose just as many health risks (as increasingly it appears to be with the case of the common BPA replacement, BPS).

Low dose exposure to BPA has been associated with a wide range of health effects including behavioral problems, prostate, breast and liver cancer as well as obesity.  A study released just last week demonstrated how low dose exposure to BPA during fetal development can alter gene expression in the mammary gland of female rats, resulting in abnormal development of the breast and increased susceptibility to breast cancer later in life.   Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science, Regulation| Tagged | Read 1 Response

Is BPA a carcinogen?

Sarah Vogel, Ph.D., is Director of EDF's Health Program.

Add liver cancer—a childhood cancer on the rise in the US—to the growing list of potential health effects associated with bisphenol A (BPA) exposure that are under scrutiny by researchers.  A recent study by scientists at the University of Michigan, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, is the first ever to report a dose-dependent, statistically significant relationship between perinatal (before and just after birth) exposures to environmentally relevant levels of BPA and development of cancerous liver tumors later in life.

There are three particularly notable features of this study: first, the dose levels used; second, the timing of when those doses were delivered; and third, the age at which effects were observed.  Read More »

Posted in Emerging Science, Health Science| Tagged , , | Read 1 Response

Prevention as cure: Confronting the environmental contributions to breast cancer

Sarah Vogel, Ph.D., is Managing Director of EDF's Health Program.

Breast cancer is a personal issue for too many of us.  For six years I have watched the disease overtake a very dear friend’s life.  First diagnosed at 32, she underwent radical treatments— surgeries, radiation and chemo— and three years later faced metastatic breast cancer that is now ravaging her body. 

She is one of the three million women in the U.S. currently facing, or who have been treated for, for breast cancer.  She is also one of a growing number of women under 50 getting the disease with no family history of breast cancer. 

Many women today live longer with or after the disease due to remarkable advancements in medicine, but treatment is not a path anyone would choose.  It takes a heavy emotional and physical toll, and often comes with serious impacts on a women’s life, such as the loss of fertility and the risk of reoccurrence.  Medical costs for treatment of breast cancer totaled $17.35 billion in 2012. And even with advances in treatment, in 2012, more than 40,000 women died from the disease.  

The question every woman must ask is: “What can I do to prevent the disease for myself or my daughter?” Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , | Comments are closed

Hands off the Report on Carcinogens

Sarah Vogel, Ph.D., is Managing Director of EDF's Health Program.

Information, and importantly, access to reliable and objective information, is the cornerstone of a democratic society.  That is why recent efforts by the chemical industry and its allies to block Congressionally-mandated, scientific information on carcinogenic hazards by defunding the Report on Carcinogens (ROC) have many researchers and public health officials alarmed. 

Today, in a letter sent to House and Senate appropriations committee leaders, 75 occupational and environmental health scientists and professionals from around the country called on Congress to maintain funding for the ROC.  Their letter is in response to a legislative proposal that, if passed into law, would withhold funding for any work on the ROC until the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) completes its review of the listings of formaldehyde and styrene in the 12th ROC—a process the NAS has only just begun.  If such a proposal were successful, it would effectively delay public access to critical information on chemical carcinogens for years.     Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science, Industry Influence| Tagged , , , , | Read 3 Responses
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