EDF Health

Selected tag(s): Children's lead exposure

Unleaded Juice: Tougher limits on lead in juice would bring more than a billion dollars in socioeconomic benefits

Tom Neltner, Senior Director, Safer Chemicals

This is the second in our Unleaded Juice blog series exploring how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets limits for toxic elements like lead, arsenic, and cadmium in food and its implications for the agency’s Closer To Zero program.

When developing its draft action levels for lead in juice, FDA started with the current 50 parts per billion limit and considered progressively tighter levels, settling on 10 ppb for apple juice and 20 ppb for other juices. FDA did not consider more protective limits despite acknowledging that there is no known safe level of children’s exposure to lead – which can harm a child’s developing brain – and that many in the food industry already meet the lower draft levels.

FDA also failed to quantify the socioeconomic benefits of its action. While this task is difficult in many settings, it is entirely reasonable for lead because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a quantitative model when considering rules to protect children from exposure to lead.[1] Read More »

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FDA takes action to limit lead in juice, proposes significant – but insufficient – limits

Tom Neltner, Senior Director, Safery Chemicals

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released draft action levels for lead in juice, proposing to reduce lead limits from 50 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb for apple juice and 20 ppb for all other juices. However, the draft limits don’t go far enough to protect children. They also risk undermining the agency’s broader Closer to Zero effort to drive down children’s exposure to lead, arsenic, and cadmium in food. 

If finalized, these levels would be the most stringent in the world, including current European standards[1] and anticipated international standards.[2] For that FDA deserves credit. Public comments to FDA are due June 28. 

This blog is the first in our Unleaded Juice blog series where we explore these issues. Heavy metals like lead are potent neurotoxicants that can impair children’s brain development. Lead can also result in lower IQs in children.  Read More »

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Good news: Blood lead levels in children resume their downward trend

Tom Neltner, Senior Director, Safer Chemicals

It is always worth keeping an eye on the latest U.S. data on blood lead levels in children. While no amount of lead is safe, it is nice to see lower levels reported in findings released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) late last year.

In case you missed it, blood lead levels decreased among the children most exposed to the heavy metal during the most recent two-year cycle, according to a biomonitoring data report released by CDC.

The 2017-18 data comes from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Evaluation System (NHANES), and it is a key measure of overall progress towards reducing children’s exposure to lead from all sources.

In April 2019, we reported disturbing news that after six years of sustained and significant progress, the NHANES 2015-16 cycle showed blood lead levels (BLLs) of the most exposed children 1 to 5 years of age increased compared to the previous two years. We saw a similar trend for children 6 to 11 years of age in the 2015-16 data. At the time, we cautioned that the increase was not statistically significant because of the relatively small sample sizes – between 600 and 800 children in each age range – but was still worth watching. Read More »

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Trump Administration’s lead action plan is a missed opportunity to protect kids from lead

Tom Neltner, J.D.Chemicals Policy Director

Yesterday, the President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children released its long-delayed Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Health Impacts (Lead Action Plan). A year ago the Task Force described this document as a federal lead strategy that would identify clear goals and objectives to “serve as a ‘roadmap’ for federal agencies on actions to take to reduce childhood lead exposure.” It requested feedback on the approach and received over 700 public comments.

The Trump Administration’s Lead Action Plan falls far short of what was promised. To understand what the Plan is and what it is not, we compared it to two earlier documents from the Task Force: 1) A federal lead strategy released in February 2000 by the Clinton Administration focused on reducing exposure to lead-based paint; and 2) An inventory of key federal programs released in November 2016 by the Obama Administration summarizing the activities of the 17 federal agencies and departments with responsibilities to protect children from lead.

Read More »

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