MUST WATCH: LEAD WARS: The Politics of Science and The Fate of America’s Children
On the May 17 episode of Moyers & Company (PBS), Bill Moyers interviewed David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, public health historians and authors of the book, Lead Wars: The Politics of Science and the Fate of America’s Children. For years, Rosner and Markowitz have been taking on the chemical industry, writing about the hazards of industrial pollution and the neglect of worker safety — despite industry efforts to undermine them
In their Lead Wars book, based on 20 years of research, Rosner and Markowitz warn that, for young children, there is no safe level of exposure to the dangerous toxin lead, which is still lurking in millions of homes (ED NOTE: as well as in soil near lead smelters).
From the show’s description:
The authors discuss thwarted efforts to hold the lead industry accountable, failed attempts to find cheap solutions, and the cost to the future of our children. As long as the chemical industry and its powerful lobbies prevail in blocking efforts to reform outdated laws, Markowitz and Rosner say, we will continue to float in a soup of toxins — inhaling, drinking, and absorbing chemicals that we may learn, years later, have put us all in harm’s way.
During the show, Moyers also interviewed Rosner and Marowitz about The Baltimore Study, which they also wrote about in Lead Wars:
In the 1990s, a prominent research facility associated with Johns Hopkins University conducted an experiment that knowingly exposed children — mostly African American, some as young as a year old — to varying levels of potentially dangerous lead, as part of a study comparing different degrees of lead paint abatement. The researchers, at Hopkins’ Kennedy Krieger Institute, recruited poor families to move into homes that had only been partially abated using three different methods of lead paint removal at three different levels of cost.
The research was “conducted in the best interest of all of the children enrolled,” Dr. Gary W. Goldstein, president and chief executive of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, said in response to a class-action lawsuit filed by the families in 2011. “Over all, the blood lead levels of most children residing in the study homes stayed constant or went down.”
But in some cases, children placed in homes that received the two cheaper forms of abatement were exposed to levels of lead known to cause permanent neurological problems.
Also during the show, Moyers interviews Shelia Kromhulz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics and OpenSecrets.org, and Danielle Brian, who runs the Project on Government Oversight. The two represent independent watchdog groups keeping an eye on government as well as on powerful interests seeking to influence it.
Lead in paint found primarily in homes built before 1978 still poses a significant hazard in homes and in soil. Once lead was removed from gasoline beginning in 1976, emissions from industrial sources such as lead smelters are now the largest source of lead in the air, according to the EPA. Those lead emissions get deposited and accumulate over years in the soil on and around the smelters.
Regardless of the source of lead, this show is very informational and definitely worth watching: