America's Lead Poisoning Problem Is Everywhere
Flint's water crisis has dominated headlines in the past month, as more and more details of the "man-made disaster" continue to come to light each day. But Flint is "just the tip of the iceberg," as famed environmental activist Erin Brockovich put it in an interview with Stephen Colbert last week.
Other U.S. cities have higher rates of lead poisoning than Flint https://t.co/5l1CqIDKcL #health https://t.co/awljsVHRiQ— Montreal Gazette (@Montreal Gazette)1454697019.0
According to a Washington Post article published Thursday, an "untold" number of U.S. cities have higher rates of lead poisoning than Flint.
The Washington Post reported:
Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] shows that over 40 percent of the states that reported lead test results in 2014 have higher rates of lead poisoning among children than Flint.
In Flint, 4 percent of kids aged five and under tested with blood-lead levels of at least five micrograms per deciliter, the threshold of lead intake that necessitates public health action, as defined by the federal government.
Elsewhere in the country, 12 states reported that a greater percentage of kids under six years old met or surpassed that threshold. The most egregious example is Pennsylvania, where 8.5 percent of the children tested were found to have dangerously high levels of lead in their blood.
The entire state of Pennsylvania has a lead poisoning crisis among its kids. https://t.co/gaDZenbWMK— Libby Nelson (@Libby Nelson)1454537702.0
And the problem could be much worse because very few children have even been tested for elevated lead levels.
The Washington Post said:
Only 27 states (including Washington, DC) reported childhood blood lead surveillance results to the CDC’s national database for 2014, the most recent statistical set available.
These represent just a slice of the infant population. In Texas, for instance, only 184 kids were tested for lead poisoning. The state’s population of kids under six exceeds 2 million.
On the federal level, then, there is no comprehensive understanding of the extent to which the population is being exposed to hazardous amounts of lead. While the percentage of children with more than 5 micrograms per deciliter of lead has been steadily declining, the CDC says no blood-lead level in children has been determined to be “safe.”
Flint may have in recent months become synonymous with lead contamination in America, but it is by no means the only—or the most extreme —example of how the toxic element can make its way into our bodies.
Take Cleveland for example. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the number of children in Cleveland exposed to lead is 2.5 times the number of children poisoned in Flint at the height of the crisis.
"And those are only the children who get tested," the Plain Dealer said. "Most don't get screened for the toxin, recommended for all kids under the age of six because of the high prevalence of lead paint in the city's housing."
Experts say the most common source of lead poisoning is lead-based paints, which can be found in older homes across the country.
Eleven New Jersey cities and several cities in Michigan have higher rates of lead poisoning than Flint, "again, not from the water but old paint and soil contaminated by factory emissions from yesteryears," The Washington Post explained.
How could it get worse than Flint? Nearby cities report more children with lead poisoning https://t.co/xtqgt6AslZ https://t.co/aDqUMH6Nbj— Yahoo News (@Yahoo News)1454089638.0
Louisiana, Alabama, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana and Oklahoma are just some of the other states that have counties with lead levels higher than Flint's, according to Vox. One county in Alabama—Houston County—found that seven of the 12 children it tested had lead poisoning in 2014, which the CDC defines as kids who have more than five micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood.
In some places outside of Flint, more than half of children test positive for lead poisoning https://t.co/X4PD5LpUkQ https://t.co/amIWndkLIS— Vox (@Vox)1453950045.0
As for what's being done to address the problem, local groups and politicians are working to hold agencies accountable for monitoring lead exposure and trying to get money allocated to remove lead from old homes.
"At a press conference in Trenton, New Jersey, this week, a coalition of groups led by community development nonprofit Isles, Inc. urged Gov. Chris Christie to devote $10 million towards the Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund, which oversees the removal of lead from old homes and other lead abatement projects," The Washington Post reported.
In Ohio, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown announced last week he will introduce legislation to address the threat of lead exposure in the water supply after news broke of lead poisoning in the tap water of residents of Sebring, Ohio. Brown criticized the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for failing to tell Sebring residents for five months that their water was contaminated with lead.
The new legislation would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to notify the public of dangerous lead levels in their water within 15 days, and to put a cleanup plan into place within six months. The current law gives the state Environmental Protection Agency 18 months to enact a corrosion control plan to clean up lead from toxic water supplies, Sen. Brown told The Plain Dealer.
We are seeing effects of lead in water in Flint, Sebring & other cities across the US. Current efforts aren’t enough https://t.co/HL9jciQXQ0— Sherrod Brown (@Sherrod Brown)1454458442.0
Cleveland City Council also held its third hearing since December on the city's lead poisoning problem. "The main task the city faces is sorting through a backlog of 3,000 lead poisoning cases identified by the Ohio Department of Health that have yet to be entered into the state's tracking system," the Plain Dealer reported.
Overall, "monitoring of lead exposure is hugely inadequate—even though it remains a significant problem, especially in the country's most vulnerable communities," Vox said. While blood lead levels have decreased dramatically in the last few decades, it's still a serious problem.
"There is no standard for how states should administer their childhood lead surveillance programs, and testing isn't mandatory, despite the fact that," according to Vox, "the CDC has said 'no safe blood level in children has been identified.'"
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
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By Tony Carnie
South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.
Vincent van der Merwe at a cheetah translocation. Endangered Wildlife Trust
Under Pressure<p>Cheetah populations elsewhere in Southern Africa have not prospered over the past 50 years. In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have crashed from 1,500 in 1975, to just 170 today. Botswana's cheetah population has held steady at around 1,500 over the same period, but illegal capture for captive breeding and conflicts with farmers and the growing human population are increasing. In Namibia, there were an estimated 3,000 cheetah in in 1975; roughly 1,400 remain today.</p><p>In contrast, South Africa's cheetah numbers have grown from about 500 in 1975 to nearly 1,300 today. Van der Merwe, who is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town's Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), says he's confident that South Africa will soon overtake Namibia and Botswana, largely because the majority of South African cheetahs are protected and managed behind fences, whereas most of the animals in the neighboring countries remain more vulnerable on mainly unfenced lands.</p><p>Wildlife researchers Florian Weise and colleagues have reported that private stock owners in Namibia still trap cheetahs mainly for translocation, but there are few public or private reserves large enough to contain them. Weise says that conservation efforts need to focus on improving tolerance toward cheetahs in commercial livestock and game farming areas to reduce indiscriminate trapping.</p><p>Van der Merwe says fences can be both a blessing and a curse. While these barriers prevent cheetahs and other wild animals from migrating naturally to breed and feed, they also protect cheetahs from the growing tide of threats from humanity and agriculture.</p><p>To simulate natural dispersion patterns that guard against inbreeding, the trust helps landowners swap their animals with other cheetah reserves elsewhere in the country. The South African metapopulation project has been so successful in boosting numbers that the trust is having to look beyond national boundaries to secure new translocation areas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.</p><p>Cheetah translocations have been going on in South Africa since the mid-1960s, when the first unsuccessful attempts were made to move scores of these animals from Namibia. These relocations were mostly unsuccessful.</p>
Charli de Vos uses a VHF antenna to locate cheetahs in Phinda Game Reserve. Tony Carnie for Mongabay
Swinging for the Fences<p>But other wildlife conservation leaders have a different perspective on cheetah conservation strategy.</p><p>Gus Mills, a senior carnivore researcher retired in 2006 from SANParks, the agency that manages South Africa's national parks, after a career of more than 30 years in Kalahari and Kruger national parks. He says the focus should be on quality of living spaces rather than the quantity of cheetahs.</p><p>Mills, who was the founder of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Carnivore Conservation Group in 1995, and who also spent six years after retirement studying cheetahs in the Kalahari, says it's more important to properly protect and, where possible, expand the size of existing protected areas.</p><p>He also advocates a triage approach to cheetah conservation, in which scarce funds and resources are focused on protecting cheetahs in formally protected areas, rather than diluting scarce resources in an attempt to try and save every single remaining cheetah population.</p><p>"People have an obsession with numbers. But I believe that it is more important to protect large landscape and habitats properly," Mills said.</p><p>He suggests that cheetahs enclosed within small reserves live in artificial conditions: "It's almost like glorified farming."</p><p>"In the long run we have to focus on consolidating formally protected areas," he added. "Africa's human population will double by 2050, so cheetah populations in unfenced areas will become unsustainable if they are eating people's livestock."</p>
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