Wednesday, July 20, 2011

CPSIA - You're Only SAFE if It's 99.99% Lead-Free . . . But Don't Tell the EPA

Last week, the Democrats took action to protect you and your kids from the perils of lead.  As we have been relentlessly reminded by non-scientists, there is "no safe level of lead" - just ask Bob Adler and Inez Tenenbaum.  Now, in the wake of the conclusion that reducing lead content from 300 ppm (lead-in-substrate) to 100 ppm will produce "minimal" health benefits (read, none), the CPSC Commission voted three Democrats to two Republicans to reduce the lead limit to 100 ppm. 

Reducing lead standards from 300 ppm to 100 ppm can be expressed a different way mathematically.  This is a reduction from 99.97% lead-free to 99.99% lead-free.  [Credit to Anne Northup for the mathematics!] This will cost billions and the economic devastation was ALSO documented by the CPSC Staff in their analysis on the 100 ppm standard.  Nevertheless, the non-scientists who rule the roost at the CPSC saw nothing but health upsides in this technologically feasible but economically absurd feat.  And, as we know, injuries to children have an infinite value when you are unable to assess risk.  The numbers work out - yes, the cost may be in the billions and the reduction in incentives will cost yet more, but the savings are infinite!  Even one avoided injury is an infinite savings.  Queue the tears . . . .  What-a-deal!

Ironically, last week the EPA bowed to political pressure and in an exercise of common sense, eased up on precautions against lead-in-paint in housing stock.  Hello?  Did you catch that one?  Twelve Senators signed a letter in April to protest this proposed rule as excessive and damaging to small business, and bingo, something good finally happened.  Olympia Snowe was so delighted that she put out a press release to celebrate it.  Please note that the EPA acknowledges that lead-in-paint in housing stock is the principal source of lead poisoning in the United States.  [It sure ain't toys.]  They have previously acknowledged in writing (lucid writing, actually) that their rules on lead need to be measured and that the economic impact of their rules must also be carefully assessed. The EPA does not attach an infinite value to injuries, even to children.  They aren't idiots.  Draw your own conclusions.

Hello, Senators, anyone home?

The foundation of the "no safe level of lead" slogan has been laid by the American Academy of Pediatrics, a political organization masquerading as a professional organization.  This organization was aggressively and justifiably attacked by Anne Northup during the 100 ppm Commission meeting.  It is rare to see anyone attack these people, perhaps besides me (not a fan . . .), but do they ever deserve it.  Here is what Dr. Dana Best of the AAP told a House Subcommittee on April 7, 2011:

"Exposure to lead is amply documented to cause the loss of intellectual capacity. On average, children whose blood lead levels (BLLs) rise from 10 to 20 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) lose two to three IQ points. More recent studies have shown an even greater impact on IQ of BLLs under 10 mcg/dL. Key studies reported a loss of 4 to 7 IQ points in children whose lead levels rose from 1 mcg/dL to 10 mcg/dL. These studies suggest that “low” levels of exposure – meaning BLLs less than 10 mcg/dL – cause proportionately greater harm than higher levels. . . . The medical and scientific literature are in substantial agreement that an increase of 1 mcg/dL in blood lead level is capable of causing the loss of approximately one IQ point in children whose blood lead level is under 10 mcg/dL."  [Enphasis added]

Dr. Best, well-known for her fear of children licking bicycles, has previously posited "millions" of victims of lead-in-substrate.  Despite taking such a dramatic stand, Dr. Best cannot seem to name even ONE victim or lead-in-substrate or provide a single case history demonstrating that such a victim has ever been located . . . anywhere.  Not even one.  Doesn't matter, apparently.  When you're right, you're right.

But is Dr. Best actually RIGHT?  Fascinatingly, when Dr. Best plugs the notion that driving lead concentrations below 10 mcg/dl will have some defined (definite) health benefits, she flies in the face of the official AAP Policy Statement on Lead Exposure in Children (recently restated on May 1, 2009).  The Policy Statement does NOT support her assertions - and she is on the committee that wrote/approved the statement.  You might say she got it wrong, or you might just say she's a liar.  Is it really possible to be that incompetent?  Here's what the Policy Statement says:

"Canfield et al recently extended the relationship between blood lead concentration and IQ to blood lead concentrations less than 10 g/dL. They observed a decrease in IQ of more than 7 points over the first 10 g/dL of lifetime average blood lead concentration. . . . To confirm the adverse effects of lead on IQ at these concentrations, however, more children whose blood lead concentration has never been more than 10 mcg/dL should be studied. A reanalysis of the primary data from several of the prospective studies is underway to help resolve this issue. At the moment, however, these data have not yet been incorporated into policy, and the CDC16 and AAP24 both currently use 10 mcg/dL (Table 2) as the blood lead concentration of concern."  [Emphasis added]

The Canfield study is the study Dr. Best cites in her Congressional testimony above.  Canfield predates the restated Policy Statement (obviously, or else it wouldn't be cited), and thus forms part of the basis of the recommendation for further study.  The AAP recommends further study to confirm its suspicions - and those studies aren't done.  Dr. Best certainly didn't cite them.  The AAP Policy Statement goes on to recommend:

"RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GOVERNMENT:  Fund studies to confirm or refute the finding that blood lead concentrations of less than 10 mcg/dL are associated with lower IQ. The next important step in lead research is conducting of studies in which confounding by socioeconomic factors is not so strong. Funding of studies in this area needs to be given high priority, as was done in the early 1980s when the question of effects of blood lead concentrations less than 20 mcg/dL was raised."  [Emphasis added]

So the AAP acknowledges in its policy statement that the case is not exactly open-and-shut.  Dr. Best, a member of the AAP's Committee on Environmental Health, continues to bash away on the hustings with her hyperbolic and conclusory message.  Perhaps she feels that no one will likely check her work or contest her blather, so why not?

Senators?  Congressmen?  Does anyone care about the effects on business when it comes to the out-of-control CPSC? 

There are now 25 days until the 100 ppm standard goes into effect retroactively.  Starting packing up, guys.  Will Congress act?  I have no idea - this is not, and never has been, a question of doing the right thing for you or me or for anyone, really.  The Dems have an agenda, a political agenda, and your problems are beneath their consideration.  I can't say who will be the winners, but the losers are well-known by now. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for making the excellent point about what is known about blood lead and risk. Of course, most lead in substrate is unlikely to make it into the blood stream because to do so it has to come off onto the user's hands or in their mouths or digestive tract, and the lead has to be accessible--that is it needs to be biologically available and not--for example--just bound into the product's material. In the history of the CPSC, their scientists have found few products besides lead paint that arguably elevated blood lead levels. Almost all "lead poisonings" ie. elevated blood levels, could be traced to lead in paint, dirt, or industrial lead brought home inadvertently by a parent.
In the wake of the poisoning of a child from a charm that was nearly 100% lead and stayed in a childn's digestive tract for 24 hours, CPSC adopted a safe harbor for manufacturers of children's jewelry. In essence, even for something that could be swallowed and digested, the CPSC said if it had less than 600 ppm total lead, it was safe to sell. (If it was over 600 ppm it could still be safe to sell depending on the material properties. CPSC asked a firm to do an extraction study and risk analysis. If that showed no significant elevation of blood levels, even a children's jewelry item using more than 600 ppm lead in substrate could be sold.) Now, under the CPSIA, CPSC is allowing a 100 ppm requirement to go into effect that applies to any material in a children's product, whether it can be mouthed, or is likely to be touched. It does not matter to CPSC whether the lead comes off, or will ever get into a child's blood stream. In light of what their own scientists have said, and the stays the CPSC has granted based on the risk trade-offs in certain products, the statements made by certain Commissioners about the hazards of lead can only be based on cynical political considerations, or a complete lapse in practical judgment and common sense.
After years of criticizing the Bush administration for "ignoring science", the Democrats and interest groups have merely demonstrated that they can take ignorance of science to a completely new level.