AP: Trumpeter Swans died from Lead Poisoning

A University of Minnesota diagnostic lab report shows that dead trumpeter swans found at Sucker Lake in Vadnais Heights, Minn., earlier this month died of lead poisoning.

The Pioneer Press reported that the Vadnais Lake Area Water Management Organization, which investigated the swan deaths, originally thought the swans had died of malnutrition.

The report said the lead toxicity is likely from fishing sinkers that accumulate in the sediment. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources estimates that 40 percent of Minnesota trumpeter swan deaths are caused by lead poisoning. Experts say one pellet can kill an adult trumpeter swan.

About 10 dead swans were found at the Vadnais Heights lake.

We keep loosing lead sinkers in our lakes and we think it has no consequences. Crazy.

Alissa Walker: How to ID Lead Paint


Lead paint is extremely prevalent in older, historic houses—especially homes that haven’t been renovated. I figured we might have lead paint in our house, given its age. If the paint is in good condition, there isn’t much risk. However, when lead paint is deteriorating, you can ingest it...

If the paint is in good shape, sometimes all that’s needed is encapsulation, meaning sealing or painting over the older layers of lead paint. If the paint is chipped or flaking, or found in places that are frequently used, like hinges and windows, the more expensive abatement process is the best option. Our county’s public health department provided a list of accredited inspectors and abatement firms, and the EPA also has a resource center.

Ian Urbina: Poisoned Wildlife & Tainted Meat

New York Times

Aiming a rifle loaded with a copper bullet rather than the standard type made of lead, Chelsea Cassens fired at an elk from 70 yards away, hitting it squarely behind its shoulder. To avoid spooking the animal if it was only injured, Ms. Cassens waited several minutes before approaching as her father needled her skeptically, suggesting her newfangled ammunition might not have immediately killed it...

“Her bullet did the trick just fine,” Mr. Hughes, 63, conceded, adding later that he also planned to switch from lead to copper bullets, a transition more and more hunters are making amid mounting evidence that lead bullets are poisoning the wildlife that feed on carcasses and polluting the game meat that many people eat.

If you hunt and use lead, then moving to copper and other non-toxic ammo is the conservative thing to do.

Aaron Bady: Heavy Stuff: Lead is Poison


It’s peculiar that we know that lead is poison, that there is no “safe” amount to put in your body, and yet we still put it in our bodies. It is peculiar because you would think that what we know would inform what we do; you would think, for example, that Flint, Michigan, would not choose to use a river that had been poisoned for nearly a century as its municipal water supply. The fact that it did—the impossible-to-avoid fact that this is the choice that was made in Flint, Michigan—forces us to re-evaluate the basis of that expectation. One of the terms is wrong. Is it “we”? Is it “know”? Is it “safe”? Is it “choose”?

Or maybe it’s the word “peculiar,” which has two primary but opposed meanings: “strange” and “particular.” Describing slavery as America’s “peculiar institution” in the 19th century, for example, was not meant to imply that slavery was strange, but that it was particular to the southern United States (the rest of the world having mostly abolished it). In this sense, it was anything but “estranged” or “alien”; precisely in its particularity, “the peculiar domestick institution of the Southern States,” as John Calhoun put it, was what made his home what it was.

If it’s peculiar that we drink poison, as a society, then there are one of two choices: either it’s a strange and inexplicable practice, or it’s what makes us who we are. It might also, like the word peculiar itself, be a strange and particular combination of both.

Here is what we know....

Mimi Kirk: Fertility -- Lead's Other Toxic Toll


A recent working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, “Toxic Truth: Lead and Fertility,” confirms this connection by providing, for the first time, causal evidence of the effects of lead exposure on fertility for large portions of the U.S. population, both male and female.

It’s a troubling new addition to the body of research examining the effects of lead poisoning on young people and families. American cities remain heavily laced with this toxic metal, which was once found in paint, plumbing, gasoline, and in various industrial usages. As the Flint water crisis demonstrated, its public health impacts are severe: Lead exposure in children is associated with serious health and developmental consequences. At least half a million American children under the age of five have blood lead levels higher than the point at which the Centers for Disease Control recommends public health intervention, and at least 4 million households are exposed to high levels of lead, the CDC says.

Many are clustered in low-income areas of cities like St. Louis, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, where the effects of lead poisoning span generations. Some researchers have posited that chronic lead exposure is partially responsible for poor educational outcomes and high crime rates in some cities.

Lauren Chambliss: Fishing Tackle Kills Loons

All About Birds:

Roberta Olenick

Roberta Olenick

Loons still face many threats today, including the lead commonly used in fishing tackle. Decades after the U.S. government began regulating lead out of our environment through lead bans in gasoline, household paint, and the shotgun ammunition used for hunting waterfowl, the poisonous soft metal is still being directly introduced into lakes and waters via fishing tackle. In the contiguous U.S., lead is a leading cause of death in the Common Loon. And now for the first time, researchers in New Hampshire have discovered a much worse population-level impact than previously suspected.

In Minnesota, an estimated 100 to 200 loons die each year from lead poisoning. 

Geoffrey Lean: Death by Lead

The Guardian:

ooking back, it seems insane. Bluntly put, we took a known poison and – for three quarters of a century – used it in machines that puffed it out in breathable form. Then we drove them millions of miles a day, all over the world, regularly dosing billions of people with the toxin...

The study, published in the Lancet Public Health journal and believed to be the first to research the effects of low levels of lead exposure on the general public, also concludes there is no safe level of the toxic metal: people with the lowest detectable amounts were still affected.

Researchers at four North American universities, led by Bruce Lanphear, of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, studied the fate of 14,289 people whose blood had been tested in an official US survey between 1988 and 1994. Four fifths of them had harboured levels of the toxic metal below what has, hitherto, been thought safe.

The study found that deaths, especially from cardiovascular disease, increased markedly with exposure, even at the lowest levels. It concluded that lead kills 412,000 people a year – accounting for 18% of all US mortality, not much less than the 483,000 who perish as a result of smoking.

Michael Casey: Loons Poisoned by Lead

Associated Press:

More than year after New Hampshire passed one of the nation’s toughest bans on using lead fishing tackle, loons are still dying from ingesting fishing weights and lures.

The 2016 law prohibits the sale and use of lead tackle in the state as part of an effort to revive the state’s loon population. But Loon Preservation Committee senior biologist Harry Vogel says eight loons have died this year from lead poisoning, up from two last year.

”The day this law was passed, we knew we would continue to see lead-poisoned loons,” Vogel said. “As long as Grandpa’s old tackle box is in the dusty corner of the garage, some people will just put lead tackle on the line and continue to fish. The hope is that it will become less and less common over time.”

From necropsy studies, I've estimated that between 100 and 200 Minnesota loons die each year due to lead poisoning.

Lucas Reilly: The Most Important Scientist You've Never Heard Of

Mental Floss:

For 60 years, American drivers unknowingly poisoned themselves by pumping leaded gasoline into their tanks. Here is the lifelong saga of Clair Patterson—a scientist who helped build the atomic bomb and discovered the true age of the Earth—and how he took on a billion-dollar industry to save humanity from itself...

on the prairies and farms of central Iowa, a 2-year-old boy named Clair Patterson played. His boyhood would go on to be like something out of Tom Sawyer. There were no cars in town. Only a hundred kids attended his school. A regular weekend entailed gallivanting into the woods with friends, with no adult supervision, to fish, hunt squirrels, and camp along the Skunk River. His adventures stoked a curiosity about the natural world, a curiosity his mother fed by one day buying him a chemistry set. Patterson began mixing chemicals in his basement. He started reading his uncle’s chemistry textbook. By eighth grade, he was schooling his science teachers.

During these years, Patterson nurtured a passion for science ... Luckily for the world, the child who’d freely roamed the Iowa woods remained equally content to blaze his own path as an adult. Patterson would save our oceans, our air, and our minds from the brink of what is arguably the largest mass poisoning in human history.

Ron Meador: Recreational Shooter Blood Pb Levels


Wherever you stand on the question of whether it’s guns that kill people or people who kill people, you might be impressed by new findings about shooting ranges as a source of serious lead poisoning among their enthusiasts.

In occupational health and workplace safety circles it has long been recognized that police officers, soldiers and others who train intensively with firearms are exposed to lots of lead dust and fumes as they make holes in targets. Same for their trainers. There are workplace rules intended to limit that exposure and to monitor blood-lead levels for dangerous conditions...

Half the studies found BLLs above 20µg, and 17 found them above 30 µg, at which point “prompt medical evaluation” is recommended. Fifteen found readings in excess of 40 µg.

The three dozen studies included both professional and recreational facilities worldwide and the new analysis did not attempt to distinguish them by BLL results. Rather, it makes the sensible and perhaps even obvious point that the health risks in both venues ought to be of equal concern and receive equal attention.

Rae Ellen Bichell: We're All Dumber Due to Lead Pollution


Exposure to lead as a child can affect an adult decades later, according to a study out Tuesday that suggests a link between early childhood lead exposure and a dip in a person’s later cognitive ability and socioeconomic status.

Lead in the United States can come from lots of sources: old, peeling paint; contaminated soil; or water that’s passed through lead pipes. Before policies were enacted to get rid of lead in gasoline, it could even come from particles in the fumes that leave car tailpipes.

And when lead gets into a human body, it can mess with brain development, decades of research has shown. “It’s toxic to many parts of the body, but in particular in can accumulate in the bloodstream and pass through the blood brain barrier to reach the brain,” says the study’s first author, Aaron Reuben, a graduate student in clinical psychology at Duke University...

Reuben says, children who experienced higher lead exposures “saw their intellectual abilities decline from their baseline starting point” as time wore on. He adds, “people who saw that decline also experienced downward social mobility.” The children who’d had high lead exposure — defined at the time as more than 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood — were more likely than the other kids to go on to have jobs that required slightly less education and brought in a little less income compared to their parents’ jobs.

In Reuben’s study, every 5 microgram increase in lead concentration in the blood at age 11 corresponded to a drop in IQ of 1.6 points at age 38 — primarily because of a drop in scores on perceptual reasoning and working memory. (Today the health standards for lead are stricter; 5 micrograms per deciliter is considered high exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and no amount of lead is considered safe.)

The dips in IQ and in socioeconomic status were mild. But, Reuben says, “even small changes in IQ had some significant influence on the course that people’s lives took.”

You would have been a genius, instead you are mediocre. You can thank some greedy corporate executives who at the time railed against government regulations.

Eleanor Klibanoff: Lead Ammo and Fishing Tackle Poisons


On the day before President Trump’s inauguration, the outgoing Obama administration passed a last-minute directive, banning the use of lead ammunition and fishing sinkers on federal land.

Recently, the deteriorating health of a bald eagle showed the effects of lead poisoning. Obama’s regulation is intended to protect wildlife from exactly that. But hunters are hoping Trump will soon overturn it.

In Minnesota, it is estimated that 100 to 200 loons die of ingesting lead-based fishing tackle.

Jessica Pupova: Small amounts of Lead matter


Lead problems with the water in Flint, Mich., have prompted people across the country to ask whether they or their families have been exposed to the toxic metal in their drinking water, too. When it comes to assessing the risk, it’s important to look in the right places.

Even when municipal water systems’ lead levels are considered perfectly fine by federal standards, the metal can leach into tap water from lead plumbing....

When there is a problem with lead in drinking water, service lines are the most likely culprit. Service lines are like tiny straws that carry water from a utility’s water main, usually running below the street, to each building. In older cities, many of them in the Midwest and Northeast, these service lines can be made of pure lead.

Dr. Bruce Lanphear has spent decades researching low-level lead exposure, and his work is often cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He says that while blood lead levels have been reduced drastically in recent decades, even levels as low as 5 micrograms per deciliter can lower IQs and increase the risk of attention and behavioral problems in children. For adults, lead exposure can cause kidney problems and high blood pressure.

Because it would be unethical to expose people to a known toxin, clear data are lacking on exactly how much lead a person must be exposed to before it shows up in the blood or triggers health and behavioral problems. Public health officials say that removing all lead from a person’s environment is the best course of action.

Andy McGlashen: Uninformed or the Serious Misinformed Use Lead Ammo


Lead poisoning causes brain damage and, in humans, is thought to be linked with lower IQ, poor school performance and violent behavior. Even the ancient Romans knew lead could cause cognitive damage and death.

“Indeed, we know more about the toxicity of lead than we do about almost any other contaminant,” says Myra Finkelstein, an environmental toxicologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz who studies lead’s effects on wildlife.

Finkelstein was among 30 scientists who signed a 2013 consensus statement citing “the overwhelming scientific evidence of the toxic effects of lead on human and wildlife health” and calling for “reducing and eventually eliminating the introduction of lead into the environment from lead-based ammunition.”

Marie Orttenburger: Heavy Metal Turtles

Capitol News Service:

You likely won’t find any painted and snapping turtles headbanging to Metallica in Lake Michigan wetlands. But heavy metal runs in their veins.

These turtles accumulate heavy metals in their tissues, according to a recent study in Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. Some of those metals come from local industries such as smelters, refineries and foundries, as well as landfills, storm sewers and farm runoff.

“There’s reason to believe the levels of metals like cadmium, chromium, copper and lead are impacted by anthropogenic sources,” said Matt Cooper, a research scientist at Northland College’s Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation in Ashland, Wisconsin, and co-author of the study. “They are much higher than would occur naturally, and the geology in the areas they were studying wasn’t known to have high levels of those contaminants.”

Interesting results. I wonder if the amounts from the results of this study compare to fish and human heavy metal loads.

NPR: Lead Wars

Flint, Mich., isn’t the only American city with a lead problem. Though the health crisis in Flint has highlighted the use of lead in water pipes, author David Rosner tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that lead, which is a neurotoxin, can be found throughout the U.S. on walls, in soil and in the air.

”The problem with lead is that it’s now really everywhere, and we’ve created a terribly toxic environment in all sorts of ways,” he says.

Lead is particularly dangerous to young children. In their book, Lead Wars, Rosner and co-author Gerald Markowitz describe the ways in which even small exposures can interfere with a child’s brain development and cause lasting learning challenges.

”It causes IQ loss. It causes behavioral problems. It causes attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, dyslexia,” Markowitz says.

Rosner adds that even a small amount of lead can have a lasting effect on a child’s health. “As early as the 1910s and 1920s, [doctors] were documenting children who had absorbed lead on their fingers as dust and had put their hands in their mouth and actually began going into convulsions,” he says. “It’s not like you need a lot of it.”

Please catch the whole interview of Rosner and Markowitz, and read their book!

Carrol Henderson: Ammo Should Not Kill Twice

Pioneer Press:

Lead ammo zealots have tarnished the image of hunters as “America’s conservationists.” How? These people continue to use lead ammo after learning lead is causing secondary poisoning of wildlife. They cannot be considered conservationists if they continue to use lead. They say, “We don’t need to be concerned about the loss of eagles and other wildlife from lead poisoning because those losses don’t affect wildlife at a population level.” Next thing you know, deer poachers will claim that they should not be prosecuted because they are not killing enough deer to affect the state’s deer herd at a population level.

Serious words from a wise man. 

Laura Bliss: Lead Poisoning Politics


By the 1920s, lead was an essential part of the middle-class American home. It was in telephones, ice boxes, vacuums, irons, and washing machines; dolls, painted toys, bean bags, baseballs, and fishing lures. Perhaps most perniciously, it was in gasoline, pipes and paint, the building blocks of urbanization and a growing housing stock.

That was precisely how the lead industry wanted their product to be seen. Despite the fact that lead was known to be toxic as early as the late 19th century, manufacturers and trade groups fiercely marketed it as essential to America’s economic growth and consumer ideals, especially when it came to their walls. Latching onto the nation’s post-Depression affection for clean, bright colors, they were successful.

According to a new paper in the Journal of Urban History by David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, the public health historians and co-authors of The Politics of Science and the Fate of America’s Children, the answer lies at the intersection of politics, class, and race.

Crimes committed against the American population. And like with the recent banking scandals, no greedy, corporate executives were jailed for their crimes.

Building the World That Kills Us
The Politics of Lead, Science, and Polluted Homes, 1970 to 2000
David Rosner
Gerald Markowitz

David Rosner, Center for the History & Ethics of Public Health, Departments of History and Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University, 722 West 168th Street, Room 934, New York, NY 10032, USA. Email: dr289{at}mail.cumc.columbia.edu

One of the most troubling urban health issues is childhood poisoning caused by lead, the widespread environmental toxin. It is in old plumbing fixtures, solder, paint and other building materials in huge quantities. Despite decades of improvements in blood lead levels among America’s children, the continuing presence of lead on the walls of the nation’s older houses and the known neurological effects of low-level exposures presents a classic problem: in light of the enormous costs of detoxifying the nation’s housing, should society remove this toxin in order to prevent future impacts on IQ, attention deficits disorders, and possibly criminal behavior, or do we remove some of the most pernicious sources, such as window sashes and chipped paint to reduce, not eliminate, the risk to children? Throughout the 1970s and 1980s this issue emerged among public health advocates, HUD officials and housing reformers, and community organizers and activists. Who should bear the responsibility for polluted housing: Industry, housing officials, public health officials, landlords or tenants? The battles began during the 1960s and continue to today. In 2001 the high court in Maryland condemned studies conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers that sought to develop methods for the partial remediation of homes, saying they were akin to Nazi human experiments in which children were used as human guinea pigs. This article traces the evolving debate over responsibility for the public health consequences of polluted housing.

Nicholas Kristof: America is Flint

New York Times:

WE have been rightfully outraged by the lead poisoning of children in Flint, Mich. — an outrage that one health expert called “state-sponsored child abuse.”“We are indeed all Flint,” says Dr. Philip Landrigan, a professor of preventive medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Lead poisoning continues to be a silent epidemic in the United States.”

But lead poisoning goes far beyond Flint, and in many parts of America seems to be even worse.

“Lead in Flint is the tip of the iceberg,” notes Dr. Richard J. Jackson, former director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Flint is a teachable moment for America.”

In Flint, 4.9 percent of children tested for lead turned out to have elevated levels. That’s inexcusable. But in 2014 in New York State outside of New York City, the figure was 6.7 percent. In Pennsylvania, 8.5 percent. On the west side of Detroit, one-fifth of the children tested in 2014 had lead poisoning. In Iowa for 2012, the most recent year available, an astonishing 32 percent of children tested had elevated lead levels. (I calculated most of these numbers from C.D.C. data.)

Across America, 535,000 children ages 1 through 5 suffer lead poisoning, by C.D.C. estimates.

Lead is in our sports equipment: lead fishing tackle and lead bullets. Where does that lead end up? It has been estimated that 200 loons die each year in Minnesota due to ingestion of toxic fishing tackle. Hunters and their kids ingest lead from game killed with lead bullets, thereby lowering their IQ for the right to use cheaper toxic ammunition when copper bullets are better and nontoxic. Industry threatens governments attempting to regulate lead in these products, as they profit from degraded environments and brain-damaged customers. Gold Bless America! Profit over People! 

Terrence McCoy: Corporations Swindle Lead-Poisoned Poor People

The Washington Post:

Access Funding is part of an industry that profits off the poor and disabled. And Baltimore has become a prime target. It’s here that one teen — diagnosed with “mild mental retardation,” court records show — sold her payments through 2030 in four deals and is now homeless. It’s here that companies blanket certain neighborhoods in advertisements, searching for a potentially lucrative type of inhabitant, whose stories recall the legacy of Freddie Gray.

Petty criminals get locked up and white-collar criminals get rich.