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October 20, 2014

Lead Poisoning Prevention Week and the D.C. Screening of “MisLead”

by: Fidelma L. Fitzpatrick

Paint on the outside and inside of homes, a student’s brass trumpet mouthpiece,vending machine trinkets, an old children’s book and lipstick.

Apart from being ordinary objects found in just about any family home, these items have also been found to contain lead, a pervasive heavy metal shown to cause a number of health issues, particularly in children under the age of five.

Even low levels of lead in the blood (5 micrograms per deciliter µg/dL) can result in lower IQ, hyperactivity, hearing problems and anemia, and in rare cases has led to seizures, coma and even death. To put that into context, accidentally eating a chip of lead paint about the size of a period (.) can cause an elevated blood lead level of 20 µg/dL in a young child.

No safe blood lead level in children has been identified and over the years, the blood lead level of concern for medical professionals has dropped from 60 µg/dL to 5 µg/dL, with some agencies such as the California Environmental Protection Agency putting it as low as 1 µg/dL. Today, the CDC estimates that “at least 4 million households have children living in them that are being exposed to high levels of lead.”

Although lead has been a known health hazard for more than a century, it continues to exist on the inside and outside of family homes and to crop up in everyday household products such as children’s toys and kitchen equipment. For this reason, a number of national and international health organizations, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have come together to recognize Lead Poisoning Prevention Week on Oct. 19 – 25, 2014.

This week has been recognized for many years as part of the Lead Contamination Control Act of 1988, but this year’s theme is one that is particularly close to my heart: “Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future.”

More than a decade ago, I embarked with co-counsel to hold accountable lead paint manufacturers that sold lead-containing paint for decades despite knowing of its health hazards. The Court found for the plaintiffs in 2013, but that decision is currently on appeal. Should the verdict for the plaintiffs be upheld, however, then the positive outcome of the litigation would be an abatement program that will allow several California counties to remove or seal lead paint, especially in homes with young children who are most susceptible to lead’s mentally and physically harmful effects.

Government programs for the prevention of childhood lead poisoning continue, while national grassroots organizations such as the Lead Safe America Foundation are also working tirelessly to inform families of the toxic effects of lead, the surprising and unlikely places lead can be discovered and the best ways to check for lead in your home.

As part of our firm’s ongoing support for the elimination of childhood lead poisoning, we’re helping to sponsor a screening—along with the National Center for Healthy HousingEcoStrip and others—in Washington, D.C. of the Lead Safe America Foundation’s documentary “MisLead: America’s Secret Epidemic” on Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the George Washington University School of Public Health. The film follows Lead Safe America founder Tamara Rubin as she speaks with parents and experts on the topic of lead poisoning in an effort to discover the truth behind “a hidden epidemic that impacts one in three American children today.”

For more information on the screening and to watch a preview, please visit www.misleadmovie.com.

Lead poisoning is yet another public health epidemic that too few know the full story behind. We are proud to help support increased awareness about this issue, throughout the year and especially during National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.