The Allegheny County Board of Health addressed the issue of very high levels of lead in Pittsburgh drinking water in what one local legal authority called “an unmitigated public relations disaster”.
In a embarrassing display of contempt for reality, members of the Board called upon local experts on who similarly showed an abject disregard for public safety.
The moment, captured on video by WPXI, was apparently an attempt to assuage the public after a number of news reports brought the issue to light.
What the Board of Health tried to convince the Public:
- Parents should be more concerned about paint chips and soil
- The data they have now does not provide a “representative sample” – which means they do not have a random sample across the city of lead levels in children
- They will be seeking funds to analyze existing data
- The half-life of lead in the body doesn’t matter
The press conference came on the heels of a scathing audit by County Controller Chelsea Wagner. The 34-page audit found that the health department failed to appropriately monitor PWSA, who changed the chemical used to control pipe corrosion in April 2014.
Wagner told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “This is a question of priorities and will, and perhaps casting an eye on agencies that have traditionally not come under much scrutiny.” She also said “This is too big a question and concern to continue to be left to localities that lack the wherewithal to truly confront this issue or unaccountable authorities that are content to point fingers elsewhere.”
What the Board of Health did NOT tell the Public:
- The problem of lead exposure from water, paint chips and soil is cumulative. ACBH Director Karen Hacker was quoted here claiming that lead from paint chips is “a more substantial risk”. This demonstrates either a fundamental lack of understanding of, or a callous disregard for, the basic concept of cumulative risk from cumulative exposure.
- The half-life of lead in the body is 25-30 years (bone), and it leaches back from the bone to re-toxify the brain. Exposure is associated with decreased IQ. Read more: The Health Hazards of Lead
- Even low levels of exposure to lead can lead to problems with intellectual functioning in both children and adults, and that school-age lead exposure is thought to PREDICT young adults’ IQ. See: Mazumdar, M, et al. 2011. Low-level environmental lead exposure in childhood and adult intellectual function: a follow-up study. Environmental Health
- Hacker also reported at the press conference that the available data on lead testing levels in the blood of children was not a “representative sample”. A 2014 a Health Department Report of lead testing in children in PA entitled “Childhood Lead Surveillance Annual Report” used data from 140,524 children under the age of seven. In Allegheny County, over 15% of children under the age of seven had been tested, over 1,000 of which were 5 ug/dL or higher. That’s 7.33 percent of kids in Allegheny County. Flint had 4% of kids with test result that high. Why would Hacker claim to not have sufficient data when 15% of all kids in the county have been tested? (See “Report: 18 Cities In Pennsylvania, Including Pittsburgh, Have Higher Lead Exposure Than Flint“)
- The report found that across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 13,171 (9.37% of children under seven) tested for blood levels of five micrograms/dL. An additional 1,486 children exceeded that level.
- The ACBH knew about this problem and did nothing until after the audit. In October, 2016, WPXI ran a story on the issue in which it revealed that the levels of lead found in some homes in Pittsburgh were similar to levels found in Flint, MI. Dr. Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech professor who helped expose the water crisis in Flint, Michigan: “The levels in Pittsburgh are comparable to those reported in Flint, Michigan”
- Dr. Edwards ha also said at that time that no one in the Pittsburgh region who has lead service lines should be drinking tap water. (see “It’s A Public Health Crisis” – Is Pittsburgh The Next Flint? ” and Wall Street Journal: “Pittsburgh Tries to Avoid Becoming the Next Flint“
- Instead of focusing on the question of water quality, the ACBH spent time attempting to mandate the HPV vaccine for all children in Allegheny County who were entering in seventh grade. The HPV vaccine has more serious adverse events reported per year than all other vaccines combined, and has been rejected by Japan due to safety concerns and allegations of fraud in the science reported to government agencies in the EU and Japan. The bid for mandated HPV vaccine was tabled after objective science and informed parenting came together.
- PWSA tests done in June 2016 found lead at 22 parts per billion or higher, far exceeding the state and federal limits of 16 ppb
- About 20,000 homes are serviced by lines that leach lead directly into the drinking water – that’s 1 in 4 that get water from PWSA
- As a result of these levels, they are required to replace 7% of the lead-leaching lines each year. That will be a 15 year process
- Between June 2016 and January 2017, PWSA replaced 240 lead service lines
- The cost of removing the lead lines is estimated at $25 million
- Lead exposure is thought to have contributed to the downfall of Rome
- The city originally said they will provide filters to 1 in 4 homes serviced by PWSA to reduce lead levels
- (The city is no longer providing filters to new requests) (Linked to Sunday, June 23, 2017)
- PWSA is the second largest U.S. water system exceeding federal lead level – servicing over 100,000 homes
- The PWSA agency has over $1 billion in debt.
There will a vote related to lead in drinking water at an upcoming Allegheny County Board of Health meeting. Votes made by the Board require unrestricted public comment periods. Parents are expressing outrage in public comments. The email address to request information on the upcoming meeting and to register to make unrestricted public comments is firstname.lastname@example.org
There are signs that the ACBH’s next move will be to change the math used to calculate percentages of kids with levels near or exceeding federal levels. When this is done AFTER the stats already showed excesses, it’s fraud. The ACBH needs to held accountable IMMEDIATELY before they do more damage to the public health.
Parents – you can protect your child’s brain – and your brain – using some water filters.
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Watch the WPXI Video here.
Dr. Lyons-Weiler is the CEO and Director of The Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge a pure public charity research institute located in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of three books. His latest book, “The Environmental and Genetic Causes of Autism“, is based on over 2,000 research studies and is available on Amazon, at your local Barnes and Noble, and at your local indie bookseller.
To interview Dr. Lyons-Weiler, email: jim [at] ipaknowledge.org