EDF Health

New study: Lead reduction prevented up to 99,000 heart disease deaths in 2014 alone

Tom Neltner, J.D., Chemicals Policy Director

EPA needs to estimate reduced heart disease deaths when it evaluates the merits of four upcoming rules addressing lead in water, paint, and air.

In 2018, we blogged on a study by Lanphear et al. that linked adult blood lead to a jaw-dropping 400,000 heart disease deaths annually. We called on federal regulatory agencies to give serious consideration to this and similar studies to develop a model they can use to quantify the socioeconomic benefits of potential regulatory changes designed to reduce adult exposure to lead. In June, 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) successfully completed the necessary peer review of a model. The review was completed too late to be incorporated into the agency’s proposed revisions to its Lead and Copper Rule (released October 2019), but we applied the analysis to estimate that replacing all lead service lines in the nation over ten years would provide societal benefits of more than $205 billion – and called on EPA to consider the benefits when finalizing the rule.

Last week, Abt Associates, EPA’s contractor[1] who developed the initial peer-reviewed model, published a refined model in Environmental Health Perspectives and used it to estimate that between 34,000 and 99,000 cardiovascular disease (CVD)-related deaths were avoided in 2014 due to reduced adult blood lead levels from 1999 to 2014. The analysis reports that between 16% and 46% of the overall reduced CVD deaths during those 15 years was attributable to reduced lead in adult blood. Read More »

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EDF joins court challenge of FDA’s refusal to ban use of perchlorate in food contact materials

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director and Maricel Maffini, Ph.D., Consultant

Today, EDF, represented by Earthjustice, joined with other public health advocates in filing a lawsuit to overturn the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) May 2017 decision, reaffirmed in April 2019 that allows the continued use of perchlorate[1], at concentrations up to 12,000 parts per million, in plastic packaging and processing equipment in contact with dry food. Perchlorate exposure is particularly dangerous for fetuses, infants, and young children, as it has been linked to developmental delays, reduced growth, and impaired learning capabilities. FDA relied on flawed reasoning while entirely ignoring important evidence developed by its own scientists revealing potentially serious risks resulting from ongoing use of perchlorate. We maintain that the intentional and unnecessary use of perchlorate in food contact materials should end.[2]

As with any litigation, we take this action reluctantly. We have long questioned FDA’s decisions that ignore evidence that endocrine disruptors like perchlorate can cause harm at levels the agency systematically dismisses as trivial. We have also pushed back on FDA’s decisions that allow toxic chemicals to be used in packaging and processing equipment that contact food ingredients multiple times from the farm to the grocery store shelf when the exposure estimate is based solely on the amount of the chemical that may migrate into food from the final product packaging. Agency assertions that its estimates are based on worst-case assumptions are misleading when they only consider a single contact. While FDA’s initial decision in November 2005 allowing the use of perchlorate-containing plastic raises all of these problems, the agency’s failure to address its own data and accompanying analysis by its own scientists that was published a decade later has left us with little choice but to act.

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Why do we know so little about chemical exposures? Emerging technology could disrupt the status quo.

Lindsay McCormick is a Program Manager.

EDF report identifies emerging market for personal chemical exposure monitoring technologies through a first-of-its-kind analysis.

When I first started working at EDF in 2014, I learned a statistic that shocked me: We have human exposure data on less than 4% of the roughly half-million chemicals in commerce.[1] In other words, we know next to nothing about the vast majority of chemical exposures that people were experiencing on a daily basis.

Chemicals are found in nearly all commercial products and serve a foundational role in our economy. Yet this ubiquity comes with its downsides, as some chemicals are hazardous and can find their way into our environment and ultimately end up in our water, land, and air—and in our bodies. Exposure to certain chemi­cal substances have been linked to a variety of adverse health impacts, including reproductive harm, disruption of normal hormone activity, and impaired neurological development in children.

The lack of knowledge about chemical exposures poses a major problem: Without better information on exactly which chemicals individuals are exposed to every day, it is challenging to develop effective policies and interventions to reduce harmful exposures and protect health.

Disrupting the status quo

But what if anyone could use a simple home-delivered kit or wearable device to reveal the chemicals in their environment—and in their body? Such technologies could make the invisible visible—providing individuals, as well as policy makers, businesses, health professionals, and others, with critical information needed to accelerate reductions in the public’s exposure to hazardous chemicals.

In 2017, EDF pursued a Year of Innovation to better understand opportunities to advance the market for personal chemical exposure monitors (PCEMs) – with the ultimate goal of improving public health. As part of this effort, we conducted interviews and convened an expert workshop to identify bottlenecks in the development and use of such technologies.

We learned that a significant gap exists between the demand and promise of PCEM technologies and the current cost or scalability of many of the available technologies today. Experts noted that while there is significant qualitative or anecdotal evidence of demand, a quantitative understanding of the potential market for these technologies is needed to drive a robust market.

EDF took that lesson and embarked on a two-part study to fill this gap.

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Sensors and electronic health records reveal block-by-block traffic air pollution health disparities among the elderly in Oakland

Dr. Ananya Roy is a Health Scientist

Many public heath efforts, thankfully, focus on the youngest among us. We fight for a clean environment and healthy future for our kids. However, it is easy to forget that pollution affects us in every stage of life and its insidious health effects accumulate over time and can result in disease and disability.

Older people already have higher rates of disease and are highly vulnerable to air pollution, because they have been breathing for 70, 80, or 90 years. The effects of air pollution among the elderly provide insights that help us solve problems that can benefit the whole population.

Senior citizens have become the largest and fastest-growing segment of the population. By 2030 one in five Americans will be 65 and older, a demographic shift that influences everything from consumer behavior to health-care costs. Further, grandparents play a critical role in the success of families and the next generation – both emotionally and physically. It is estimated that for approximately 4.9 million families with children, the grandparent is the main breadwinner.

Read More »

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Monitoring our chemical exposures: Five lessons learned and what’s on the horizon

Lindsay McCormick, is a Project Manager.

Last October, a groundbreaking report concluded that diseases caused by pollution were responsible for 1 in 6 premature deaths in 2015 worldwide.  That’s 9 million deaths caused by environmental pollution – three times more than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.

That may seem startling at first, but health outcomes are largely defined by a person’s genes and their environment.  In fact, environmental factors – like ambient and household air pollution, industrial chemicals, and common consumer products – are implicated in health impacts ranging from cancer and asthma to infertility.

Unfortunately, our ability to track an individual’s chemical exposures – also called the “chemical exposome” – lags way behind what we can measure genetically.  And without this information, it is virtually impossible to develop sound policies and evidence-based interventions to reduce harmful exposures and protect health.

But what if everyone could monitor hazardous chemical exposures? What if school children, soldiers, pregnant women, flight attendants, nail salon workers, gas attendants, and those living within just a few miles of industrial sites – or just about anyone – could understand chemical exposures in their personal environment?

This is where EDF comes in. EDF is exploring ways to catalyze development and scaling of breakthrough technologies capable of detecting an individual’s exposure to a broad spectrum of chemicals—making the invisible, visible.

Our efforts began three years ago, with a series of pilot projects in which people wore a simple silicone wristband capable of detecting over 1,400 chemicals in the environment. Today, we’re collaborating with diverse stakeholders to identify needs and opportunities for accelerating broad uptake of chemical exposure monitoring technologies. Below are five important lessons to jump-start this opportunity. Read More »

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New Study Says Lead – Even at Low Levels – is Associated with Risk of Premature Death

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

This week, a team of researchers led by Dr. Bruce Lanphear published an important new study on the deadly impact of lead exposure for adults. The researchers examined data on more than 14,000 adults and found that an increase of 1 to 6.7 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dL) was significantly associated with an increase in mortality of 37% for all-causes, 70% for cardiovascular, and 108% for ischemic heart disease. The findings remained significant even after they considered and accounted for other factors that could have explained this effect.

This research fills a gap identified by the National Toxicology Program in 2011 in our understanding of the risk of lead exposure at low levels in adults. And it goes further by providing a quantitative relationship crucial to better evaluating the potential economic benefits of various policy options.

The study also had startling estimates about how many people are hurt by lead exposure. The authors estimated that over 400,000 Americans every year die from lead related illnesses – ten times higher than previous assessments. That’s on par with deaths from smoking cigarettes.

Read More »

Also posted in EPA, Health Policy, Health Science, lead, Regulation / Tagged , , , | Read 1 Response