EDF Health

Overwhelming local support for EPA Chemical Assessment Program: Communities impacted by PFC contamination urge Congress to maintain critical program

Samantha Lovell is a Project Specialist.

Today, a letter signed by more than 100 people was submitted to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees urging Congress to protect the EPA Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program. The signatories come from dozens of communities across the country impacted by PFC contamination in drinking water. EPA’s IRIS program develops critical assessments of chemicals, like PFCs, that support a wide variety of decision-making from clean-up levels at contaminated sites to setting standards that ensure clean drinking water.

As we have blogged about previously, IRIS is a non-regulatory program within EPA’s science arm that produces top-tier chemical hazard assessments used across EPA program and regional offices, other federal agencies, and state and local governments to protect public health. IRIS scientists are also called on during emergency and other rapid response situations, when technical expertise is paramount and time is of the essence.

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EDF submits comments on Oregon’s proposed rules for lead testing in child care centers

Lindsay McCormick, Project Manager and Tom Neltner, J.D.Chemicals Policy Director

EDF recently submitted comments to the Oregon Department of Education’s Early Learning Division regarding the state’s proposed rules for lead testing for water in licensed and regulated child care centers.

Children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure: even very low blood lead levels can impair normal brain development, contribute to learning and behavioral problems and lower IQs.

While national attention on lead in drinking water has spurred action to address lead in schools, fewer states have addressed lead in water in child care settings – even though these centers serve children at their most vulnerable ages.

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The growing crisis over PFCs: A clear example of the need for EPA’s IRIS Program

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist with the Health Program.

As I blogged about earlier, the FY2018 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies bill posted in November by the Senate Appropriations committee majority would eliminate EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program. Located within the research arm of EPA, this non-regulatory program produces top-tier chemical hazard assessments used not only by multiple regulatory offices within EPA, but also by other federal agencies, regions, and states. IRIS chemical assessments, and the scientists that develop them, are relied on to support a broad range of core environmental decisions from setting clean-up levels at contaminated sites to evaluating health risks of chemicals in commerce and setting standards to ensure clean air and drinking water.

The widespread contamination of drinking water with perfluorinated compounds (PFCs)—chemicals that stick around in the environment for years and years—is a timely example of just how critical scientists within IRIS and related EPA research programs are. Across the country, governments are grappling with how to manage contamination from well-known toxic PFCs, like PFOA and PFOS, while simultaneously trying to understand potential health risks from a plethora of other less well-studied PFCs like GenX.

So what’s the job of EPA IRIS in a situation like this? Read More »

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Children’s lead exposure: Relative contributions of various sources

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director and Dr. Ananya Roy is Health Scientist

Last week, we noted in our blog that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dropped the statement that paint, dust and soil are the most common sources of lead in its “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home” booklet. Property owners provide this booklet to prospective homebuyers and tenants in housing built before 1978. The change implicitly recognizes that there is no safe level of lead in the children’s blood, and we must reduce all sources of lead exposure. It also acknowledges that the relative contribution of air, water, food, soil, dust, and paint to children’s blood lead levels is complicated. Exposure varies significantly based on age of the home, the child’s race and age, the family’s income-level, and region of the country. Any simplification obscures these important differences.

EPA’s scientists made this clear in a model published earlier this year that pulled together the available data, divided children into three age categories, and assigned children in each category into ten groups based on their overall lead exposure. For each group, they estimated the relative contribution of air, water, food, and soil/dust (from paint). Not surprisingly, children living in older homes with lead-based paint hazards by far have the most exposure to lead. For 1 to 6 year olds in the top 90-100 percentile, more than 70% of the lead in their blood is from soil and dust. The contribution from food is 20% and drinking water is 10%. For infants, soil and dust contributes to 50% of the lead in blood, while 40% is from water and 10% from food.

Since there is no known safe level of lead in blood, we must do even more to reduce children's exposure to lead-contaminated soil and dust.

However, to prioritize action at a national level, it is important to understand how different sources contribute to lead exposure in the average child as well as the most-exposed child. We used the underlying EPA data to calculate the average relative source contribution of different sources to blood lead levels for infants from birth to six months old, for toddlers 1 to 2 years old, and young children from 1 to 6 years old. The results indicate that infants have a much higher source contribution of lead from water in comparison to older children (Figure 1). For the average child 1 to 6 years old, food is the largest source of lead exposure, with 50%, followed by soil/dust then water.

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Pennsylvania empowers municipalities to replace lead service lines

Pennsylvania was already one of the 11 states taking proactive efforts to support LSL replacement since 2015. HB-674 expands that effort.  Check our website for what states and communities are doing.

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

In October 2017, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed and Governor Wolf signed HB-674 which implements the State’s 2017-18 budget. Section 1719-E of the law includes a provision empowering municipal authorities to replace or remediate private water and sewer laterals if the municipality determines the work “will benefit the public health.” Read More »

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Federal government updates real estate disclosure booklet to address lead in drinking water

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

In June 2017, the federal government updated the “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home” booklet to expand the information provided on lead in drinking water from a few lines to a full page. Since 1996, when someone rents or buys a home built before 1978, the property owner or landlord is required to provide them with a copy of this booklet. The last update to the booklet was made in 2012.

What is removed?

  • Statement that paint, dust and soil are the most common sources of lead. The new version does not make the comparison. See our September 2017 blog for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) latest estimates on sources of lead exposure.
  • Running water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking. The new version is silent on length of time to flush water and instead highlights taking a shower, doing laundry, or doing a load of dishes as options to flush the line at the tap. The change was necessary because homes with lead service lines, the lead pipe that connects the main under the street to the home, often experience higher levels of lead after 30 seconds of flushing.

What background is added?

  • Lead pipes, faucets and fixtures are the most common sources of lead in drinking water.
  • Reminder that older homes with private wells can have lead plumbing materials too.
  • Some states or utilities offer programs that pay for water testing for residents.

What are the new recommendations?

  • Regularly clean your faucet screen (also known as an aerator).
  • If using a filter to remove lead, follow directions to learn when to change the cartridge.
  • Use only cold water to make baby formula.
  • Contact your water company to determine if your home has a lead service line and to learn about lead levels in the system’s drinking water and water testing for residents.
  • Call EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 for information about lead in drinking water and 1-800 424-LEAD for other questions about lead poisoning prevention.

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