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  Over at Mother Jones, Kevin Drum has a cover story that spotlights how a critical public health action years ago is having a much bigger payback than anyone realized at the time. America's Real Criminal Element: Lead details the links between lead in gasoline and crime. It's already stirring up some ripples around the blogosphere.

   America's rate of crime is at a 50 year low. Drum has been watching this for a while and puts together some studies that strongly correlate this with the history of use of tetraethyl lead in gasoline and its eventual removal, along with new medical studies that have examined the pretty nasty things lead does to the human nervous system. The short version is, the rise in crime that began in the 60's and peaked in the early 90s was in large part driven by chronic exposure to lead in gasoline via air pollution. More below the Orange Omnilepticon.

UPDATE: This will probably be falling off the front page of Community Spotlight soon, but some additional info from Kevin Drum has been added that addresses some points raised in comments. Drum did a radio interview which can be heard here. (audio at bottom of article.) He addresses the drop in prison numbers - and the age demographics. Questions about effects from lead paint answered. Drum responds to the queries about the crime spike in Chicago. A response to criticism about just how much of the crime problem was due to lead is here.  update - and yet another: an MSNBC interview coming up, and lead around the world links.

   There's a comment from Diesel Kitty that deserves some special attention too. An excerpt:

At the time, EPA staff calculated that the benefits of the lead phaseout were 10 times the costs.  The Reaganites had come in talking about how all regulations should pass a cost-benefit test, so they were hoist with their own petard.  The country owes a great debt to Joel Schwarz and Hugh Pitcher -- civil servants who hunkered down and did their jobs despite the best efforts of Ann Gorsuch and the other Reagan political appointees in charge.   Subsequent experience has shown that the benefits were greatly underestimated, and the costs were over-estimated, so the actual benefit/cost ratio was much higher than 10:1.  I am proud to have played a modest part in that work, and to have contributed to lead phaseout in 5 other countries as well (Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Thailand, Sri Lanka) as well.
IF you haven't yet read Kevin Drum's cover story about America's Real Criminal Element: Lead, please do so. It's one of the most important under reported stories out there. Here's hoping Drum expands it into a book. Meanwhile, the rest of this diary and some pretty good comments can be found below the Orange Omnilepticon.

The Case Against Lead

  Before anyone starts yelling "Correlation is not causation", Drum specifically addresses that in several ways. He doesn't claim lead was the only factor - things like the crack epidemic and changes in policing and imprisonment strategies can't be entirely dismissed. But - and this is a big but - the correlation of lead use in gasoline after World War II and it's eventual abandonment in the 70s correlates very closely with crime rates with a roughly 20 year lag. In other words, kids growing up exposed to lead in the air around them suffered damage to their brains and nervous systems that translated into crime when they became adults.

   There are several natural 'experiments' that strongly suggest the amount of lead being used in gasoline is strongly linked to crime. The correlation is seen in countries around the world where leaded gas was available. Lead wasn't discontinued uniformly in the U.S. - states that had a rapid decline in lead use saw a comparable decline in crime, and vice versa. The association of crime with big cities matches up with the greater concentration of vehicles in big cities. More lead in the air, more crime. Absent leaded gas, the rates between big and smaller cities are now roughly the same level.

Just How Bad Is It - and How Does It Do the Damage?

    I strongly recommend reading the entire piece - it has some fascinating information with links.

     As to the mechanisms by which lead has such toxic effects,

...Neurological research is demonstrating that lead's effects are even more appalling, more permanent, and appear at far lower levels than we ever thought. For starters, it turns out that childhood lead exposure at nearly any level can seriously and permanently reduce IQ. Blood lead levels are measured in micrograms per deciliter, and levels once believed safe—65 μg/dL, then 25, then 15, then 10—are now known to cause serious damage. The EPA now says flatly that there is "no demonstrated safe concentration of lead in blood," and it turns out that even levels under 10 μg/dL can reduce IQ by as much as seven points. An estimated 2.5 percent of children nationwide have lead levels above 5 μg/dL.
emphasis added

     Here's the real kicker:

So lead is a double whammy: It impairs specific parts of the brain responsible for executive functions and it impairs the communication channels between these parts of the brain. For children like the ones in the Cincinnati study, who were mostly inner-city kids with plenty of strikes against them already, lead exposure was, in Cecil's words, an "additional kick in the gut." And one more thing: Although both sexes are affected by lead, the neurological impact turns out to be greater among boys than girls.

    Other recent studies link even minuscule blood lead levels with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Even at concentrations well below those usually considered safe—levels still common today—lead increases the odds of kids developing ADHD.

    In other words, as Reyes summarized the evidence in her paper, even moderately high levels of lead exposure are associated with aggressivity, impulsivity, ADHD, and lower IQ. And right there, you've practically defined the profile of a violent young offender.

emphasis added

    Lead was phased out of gasoline because of concerns over neurotoxicity and because it poisoned the catalytic convertors that came into use in the 1970's to reduce air pollution. It was eventually banned. (wikipedia history here) Who knew the EPA could be more effective at fighting crime than the FBI or Rudy Giuliani? (Atrios has a snarky observation on what else it might explain.)

Larger Implications

        Drum notes that the legacy of lead is still having toxic effects. We have a whole generation or more of people who grew up convinced that cities are hotbeds of violent crime - and not without reason given what we now know. That's changing but the paranoid stereotypes are still very much in effect out in the heartland and in certain political circles.

       We have theories of policing based on zero tolerance and other strategies that may no longer apply and may not have been effective in the first place. We have a huge prison industrial complex dedicated to locking up people - one that may have been overbuilt. Drum notes criminologists so far have largely ignored the lead hypothesis. He attributes it to a bias towards looking for sociological reasons to explain crime. Medical/environmental explanations are not on their radar. (Plus, the roughly 20 year lag between exposure and effects makes the connection less than obvious.)

       In short, we have a whole structure of social, institutional, legal, and political assumptions built up to address a problem it turns out we didn't fully understand at the time - and a lot of them are still in effect even though it turns out they weren't quite the right answers. To move forward is going to require recognition of those facts and the ability to rethink our previous solutions. That's not a strength of our current political system these days.

It's Not Over

   Drum closes with an important point. Lead may no longer be in our gasoline, but there's plenty of it that ended up in the soil, and there's still plenty of it left in old paint as well. People who live in cities where there was heavy lead exposure are still at risk from this toxic legacy. Lead in the soil doesn't stay there as Drum notes. It gets blown around with the wind, gets tracked into houses and kids play in it. Buy an old house with lead paint, you can poison yourself fixing it up. Lead may be lurking in your plumbing. (A companion article by Sarah Zhang spells out what to look for.)

     We still have a lot of cleaning up to do. Drum estimates it would take roughly $20 billion a year for at least 2 decades to clean up the lead that's lurking out there. But - and here's the key - he figures the resulting reduction in crime, the improvements in health, the reduction in damage to the brains of those now being exposed, well let me quote him again:

Put this all together and the benefits of lead cleanup could be in the neighborhood of $200 billion per year. In other words, an annual investment of $20 billion for 20 years could produce returns of 10-to-1 every single year for decades to come. Those are returns that Wall Street hedge funds can only dream of.


Lead abatement isn't cheap, but the return on investment is mind-blowing.

   Or else, as Drum notes, we can just continue to let kids grow up exposed to lead and spend $20 billion a year to lock them up in new prisons up once they reach 20 years of age.

Some Additional Thoughts

     To expand a bit on some of the larger implications of Drum's reporting, this is the kind of example that really makes the case for a strong public sector to protect the public interest.

       The original reason for the phasing out of leaded gasoline was because of the growing need to improve air quality by reducing emissions from cars. Many people alive today have never experienced how bad smog used to routinely get in our major cities - and it's still a problem in some areas. The auto industry resisted, and there was the usual griping about government regulation making things more expensive. According to the wikipedia article, the tetraethyl lead industry fought it like mad and sued those who first started sounding the warnings about the dangers of lead in gasoline.

     If what Drum is reporting holds up - and it will doubtless draw a lot of attacks from the usual suspects - it turns out government action to address one problem has helped with another we didn't fully appreciate at the time. It was a policy based on the best science of the time - not ideology, not some idle faith in free markets - that put catalytic convertors on cars and took lead out of gasoline. The science of today is confirming it was the right decision, even better than we knew. Far from costing us money, it has saved us a tremendous amount, and saved countless lives as well. The private sector didn't do that; government did.

    The downside to all of this is that the current anti-government, anti-regulation, anti-science, pro-business fanaticism crippling our government does not bode well for further rational action. There is zero chance the Republican Party as it currently is will allow any effective action to address the far greater challenge of climate change (or anything else for that matter). The immense concentration of wealth that has taken place in the intervening years also means the private interests that benefit from inaction have even more resources to protect their interests against the larger interests of the public.

   With all that, the case the Kevin Drum has put together is a pretty clear demonstration that we CAN use the power of government and the public sector to solve our problems. The removal of lead from gasoline turns out to be a bigger victory in the war for the public interest than we knew at the time. The war continues - but we can win if we keep fighting. Read the whole thing and decide for yourself. And keeping checking back with Kevin Drum. He promises additional material at his blog. (Like this one.)

5:26 PM PT: UPDATE: TomP got a diary up about this as well.

Fri Jan 04, 2013 at  4:13 AM PT: UPDATE 2 Community Spotlighted, thanks!  I had an additional thought which I left out earlier. There's probably no way it could ever happen, but I can't help think of the potential of a class action lawsuit against all the companies that made money from spreading a deadly toxin across the land. Millions of lives have been blighted. Ignorance may have excused the initial development of tetraethyl lead, but at some point they had to know what they were doing, much like the tobacco companies.

   Another way to put this into perspective is to think of it as the equivalent of some kind of chemical terror weapon attack. If it had all happened in one massive event, the outrage would have been massive. This is more of a boiled frog type problem. It's another reason we need government, as an institution that can deal with issues over the long term. The conservative erosion of bodies like the CDC, the EPA, NOAA, NASA, etc. is destroying our ability to handle big issues over big time spans. Penny wise but pound foolish.

Originally posted to xaxnar on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 04:58 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (193+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    worldlotus, MPociask, TomP, anna shane, Gooserock, Lorikeet, Mary Mike, houyhnhnm, maybeeso in michigan, dsb, tofumagoo, luckylizard, Vatexia, wader, hubcap, nice marmot, Unitary Moonbat, glorificus, raincrow, eyesoars, SoCalSal, Just Bob, mwk, sacrelicious, MRA NY, llywrch, luckydog, Lujane, HarpboyAK, Ianb007, bigjacbigjacbigjac, earicicle, droopyd, riverlover, splashy, Chaddiwicker, radarlady, WearyIdealist, Pam from Calif, BusyinCA, WheninRome, elginblt, tonyahky, filkertom, SCFrog, Sark Svemes, MrJayTee, We Won, Miss Jones, copymark, wbr, Creosote, Sandino, ItsSimpleSimon, Cartoon Messiah, parse this, sngmama, Pat K California, Lindy, mamamedusa, catleigh, Joy of Fishes, marina, Sybil Liberty, Foundmyvoice, marleycat, Noddy, Panurge, Mickquinas, pedmom, UFOH1, missLotus, PrahaPartizan, JBL55, DvCM, Words In Action, eagleray, arizonablue, johanus, Audio Guy, enufisenuf, Turbonerd, DeminNewJ, Dude1701, Sylv, DBunn, DRo, science nerd, Molly Weasley, JDWolverton, redlum jak, Dude for Hope, fixxit, Matilda, RUNDOWN, Mac in Maine, Amber6541, Sun Tzu, petulans, jediwashuu, Jimdotz, Catte Nappe, james321, Yamara, jfromga, Yo Bubba, Nulwee, ChemBob, Only Needs a Beat, skeptigal, Wreck Smurfy, Heart n Mind, Its a New Day, rovertheoctopus, zerelda, happymisanthropy, Gowrie Gal, zizi, rapala, eru, StrayCat, bnasley, cotterperson, Mathazar, slampros, brentut5, greengemini, blue muon, DrLori, trumpeter, FindingMyVoice, dragonlady, Dr Squid, Joieau, MKinTN, No one gets out alive, randomfacts, nomandates, bookbear, Matt Z, dRefractor, MarkInSanFran, roses, bluedust, bara, liz dexic, Judgment at Nuremberg, salustra, A Siegel, bontemps2012, maggiejean, annrose, MichaelNY, MarciaJ720, OregonWetDog, corvaire, LinSea, dotsright, LynChi, Mayfly, hlsmlane, Calamity Jean, 1BQ, cocinero, getlost, kyril, leema, mdcalifornia, akmk, hnichols, HeyMikey, nolagrl, SolarMom, raines, BYw, cynndara, Robynhood too, LillithMc, pixxer, CwV, zooecium, Azazello, KingGeorgetheTurd, Aaa T Tudeattack, blue denim, Simian, linkage, stonekeeper, Friendlystranger, gorgonza, GeorgeXVIII, TrueBlueMajority, bill warnick

    Give Kevin Drum Kudos for digging into this and putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

    If you want a bonus look at what lead can do to humans, the town of Picher, Oklahoma is a horrifying example of what an unrestrained private sector can do when left to its own devices.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 04:55:44 PM PST

  •  Excellent post. (25+ / 0-)

    I followed your link from my diary.

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 05:21:38 PM PST

  •  it's not what people want to believe (33+ / 0-)

    they want it to be all moral, nothing neurological, all bad parenting or irresponsible poor people, they don't like things being medical.  

    But, what brought down the Roman ruling class?

    (hint:  l..d)

    "oh no, not four more years of hope and change?" Karl Christian Rove

    by anna shane on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 05:37:02 PM PST

  •  I Remember Efforts to Deal With Paint Lead (27+ / 0-)

    a long time ago, and with leaded gasoline. The rationale as the article says was at that time IQ.

    Interesting analysis on the violent crime angle.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 05:37:20 PM PST

  •  Another undisclosed tidbit via Lawrence... (6+ / 0-)

    This is something I've NEVER heard mentioned elsewhere...

    That there is no IRS action for not paying the penalty for the tax of not purchasing health insurance under the ACA, so I've been under the impression that one could actually never purchase health ins. under the ACA mandate and never face a consequence, Lawrence stated this is written in the law and I've NEVER heard it repeated again, diary on this please?

    I'm busy escaping the new Mayan calendar and its grip on me..... TEA! (even though Obama gave 18 tax cuts to small businesses, corporate taxes have never been lower and taxes for 98% of Americans were just kept from being raised)

  •  I well remember when a child would (28+ / 0-)

    come into the hospital where I worked and we had to send up the injections for their lead poisoning.  I cried every time because that stuff (sodium EDTA, I think) was SO TERRIBLE that I can't imagine some little child enduring it.  It was a really thick oil that smelled like rotting fish, only much worse, enough to make you gag.  It was given according to weight and the volume per lb was high.  That means they had to give big shots (very slowly) of awful stuff to little kids.  They often had to give multiple shots because it couldn't all go into the same site.  Makes me shudder even now to think about it.

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 06:39:13 PM PST

    •  Yick! (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TomP, ybruti, cotterperson, luckylizard

      One thing that poor folks or anyone can do, to scrub some environmental toxins out of their body is to eat lots of fiber, especially from green foods.

      You can grow your own wheat grass  for juicing, indoors under grow lights, and of course oat meal is good too.

      •  That works for a lot of things, (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        xaxnar, MichaelNY, GreenMother, kyril

        but heavy metals like lead or mercury require heavy medicine.  They get into the body and won't let go.  That means they are cumulative and keep affecting the child until they are removed.  

        The stuff in the injections was the only thing that would bond with them so that they could be eliminated.  There may be a better treatment now, or at least I hope there is.  That stuff was torture for both nurses and patients.

        -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

        by luckylizard on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 11:00:51 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I see a page on Chelation (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          xaxnar, luckylizard, kyril, nolagrl

          "Chelation therapy using EDTA is the medically accepted treatment for lead poisoning. Other heavy metal poisonings treated with chelation include mercury, arsenic, aluminum, chromium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, selenium, zinc, tin, and thallium. Chelating agents other than EDTA are also used to clear several of these substances from the bloodstream."
          Another on use of Betonite Clay

          •  That's it! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I am not familiar with the other agents, so I don't know if they're as nasty.

            -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

            by luckylizard on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 05:28:12 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Yep (0+ / 0-)

            Chelation involves some rather nasty stuff.

            I don't understand why the 'naturopathic medicine' people are into it - best guess I can come up with is that they'll do anything that claims to 'remove toxins'. But they subject poor kids with ASD and no evidence of heavy metal poisoning to a treatment that no real doctor would ever agree was medically indicated...unconscionable, really.

            "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

            by kyril on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 06:49:48 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Naturopathic Medicine works for me (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Due to other conditions I am very sensitive to drugs, allergies driven or made worse by other conditions, that went undiagnosed for years by regular medicine--years of unnecessary misery.

              Sometimes it's better to use a slower, gentler remedy. Sometimes drugs are unnecessarily harsh.

              For Example:

              You have cholesterol problems, you can take pills, with all sorts of side effects, including those that can hurt your liver. But Naturopaths have known all along, you could just up your fiber intake, eat more garlic and onions, and cut out the highly processed meats like ham and bacon, and processed fats.

              As a child I knew country doctors who had natural home remedies before they went on throwing pills at a person. I prefer it that way. It's cheaper, fewer side effects, and it encourages prevention over treatment after the fact in many cases. I believe it teaches patients how to be more proactive with their own care, and more sensitive to their body's needs.

              And then there is this other factor:

              During the Gulf Gusher, people who became extremely ill due to the methods used to "Clean up" [read sink the oil] could not find local doctors to treat them for environmental illness due to the toxins released in their areas. Naturopaths stepped up to the plate to instruct these people on how to start detoxifying their bodies with materials like the clay and the green foods. They helped these people get the blood tests they needed to document their illnesses and the causes, when local medical professionals were either too afraid or perhaps not interested in treating people for reasons I will let you ponder.

  •  This correlation has been made for awhile, (19+ / 0-)


    But, good to see something approaching more widely read media publishing the factors and potential benefits from a regulation action taken by government.

    "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

    by wader on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 06:58:57 PM PST

  •  Fascinating (12+ / 0-)

    Lead sticks around in bones for a long time, so there's an additional line of research possible correlating lifetime exposures with criminal records.

    How much is "7 IQ points" in kilopalins?

  •  I've had a field day with fundies relatives, etc. (25+ / 0-)
    Crime in the U.S. has PLUMMETED since prayer was outlawed in public schools!!!!!!!! It's right there in black-and-white!!!!!
    Drives them absolutely batshit bonkers.

    Buuuut being a good Presbyterian I give them an out by reminding them that coincidence does not imply causality.

    Buuuut then I smack them again for believing their ignorant, hateful Wise Men who claim God is punishing us for [enter favorite peccadillo here].

    Forgive me, Lawd, for I've had too damned much fun with my relatives and coworkers over these wonderful, hopeful lead statistics. THIS is good news that should be shouted to the ends of the Earth.


    by raincrow on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 08:43:53 PM PST

  •  This is very good (14+ / 0-)

    I saw another article years ago in The Nation:

    This is just more evidence that a healthy environment is good for everyone.

    Under capitalism man exploits man, under communism the roles are reversed.

    by DavidMS on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 09:46:40 PM PST

  •  Between that and reproductive freedom (9+ / 0-)

    Leading to fewer unwanted children being born, leading to less neglect, abuse and malnutrition, it's no wonder the violent crime rate has gone down.

    We can lower it even more by stopping the war on drugs.

    Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 12:58:12 AM PST

  •  There is also a correlation between highways (13+ / 0-)

    near projects and high crime areas. For a long time most people assumed that it was because the highways provided easy access to a transportation network for drugs. I'm sure that's part of it, but later studies showed that lead on the surfaces of highways was still higher than government limits decades later.  There was a correlation between lower crime and the removal of old pavement (because of road work) in many of these areas.

    -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

    by dopper0189 on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 02:18:56 AM PST

  •  What about the experience in other countries? (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wbr, ybruti, Amber6541, blue muon, MichaelNY, kyril

    Do the data confirm the American experience?  Because leaded gasoline was surely sold in other nations also, so what do data from other places tell us?

    The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

    by helfenburg on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 03:37:45 AM PST

  •  Remember when lead additive companies (11+ / 0-)

    sued the EPA to stop it from banning leaded gasoline?

    That came up again last year in the EPA's move to regulate greenhouse gasses:

    Industry Petitioners do not find fault with much of the substantial record EPA amassed in support of the Endangerment Finding. Rather, they contend that the record evidences too much uncertainty to support that judgment. But the existence of some uncertainty does not, without more, warrant invalidation of an endangerment finding. If a statute is “precautionary in nature” and “designed to protect the public health,” and the relevant evidence is “difficult to come by, uncertain, or conflicting because it is on the frontiers of scientific knowledge,” EPA need not provide “rigorous step-by-step proof of cause and effect” to support an endangerment finding. Ethyl Corp. v. EPA, 541 F.2d 1, 28 (D.C. Cir. 1976). As we have stated before, “Awaiting certainty will often allow for only reactive, not preventive, regulation.” Id. at 25.

    Congress did not restrict EPA to remedial regulation when it enacted CAA § 202(a). That section mandates that EPA promulgate new emission standards if it determines that the air pollution at issue “may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” 42 U.S.C. § 7521(a)(1). This language requires a precautionary, forward-looking scientific judgment about the risks of a particular air pollutant, consistent with the CAA’s “precautionary and preventive orientation.” Lead Indus. Ass’n, Inc. v. EPA, 647 F.2d 1130, 1155 (D.C. Cir. 1980). Requiring that EPA find “certain” endangerment of public health or welfare before regulating greenhouse gases would effectively prevent EPA from doing the job Congress gave it in § 202(a)—utilizing emission standards to prevent reasonably anticipated endangerment from maturing into concrete harm.

    Now, of course, the case against lead is totally incontrovertible.

    Ok, so I read the polls.

    by andgarden on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 04:39:33 AM PST

  •  Thank you for covering this (11+ / 0-)

    Heavy metal poisoning is also a side effect of exposure to pesticides, esp organo-phosphate and organo-chlorines. Hmmmmmmmm.

    As for lead in the soil, THAT is no joke there. If you live in town and plan to eat stuff you grow in your yard, you need to have your soil tested for toxins. Lead is taken up in certain plants, and you could be eating the concentrations in your garden vegetables.

    This is why plants are so useful for Bio-Remediation--in this case, phytoremediation.

    One remedy is to create raised beds, and buy soil from a trusted source for organic gardening. Or do container gardening using store-bought soil.  

    Another is to use sunflowers and other plants to remove the lead from the soil, just for heaven's sake, don't compost them.

    Here are other stories about this technique.

    Today, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends this process for many cleanup and remediation strategies. Fields of Sunflowers are being used to clean up the hundred year patterns of heavy metal poisoning surrounding old manufacturing plants and even the fields of Chernobyl, the worst official nuclear power disaster in history. Join us as we explore this exciting new option. After looking at the facts, bioremediation might just become an important element to the redevelopment and safety of the city's historic and urban neighborhoods. Metro-Jacksonville
    TLC on PhytoRemediation of private residence yards This contains a cool list of plants and the toxins they take up.

    Natgeo article on phytoremediation in New England.

    Rugh said ten plant species were the standout performers, among them New England aster, joe-pye weed, and leadplant.Nat Geo
    Sunflowers, mustard, clover, leadplants, joe pye weed, dandelions, New England aster, are all important bee plants and butterfly plants too. Interesting.
    •  Horseradish is also a very effective (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      xaxnar, GreenMother, MichaelNY, kyril

      absorber of heavy metals in soil. Bioremediation is workable in theory - and occasionally in careful practice - but one thing that irks me when it's actually tried is that the plants 'somehow' end up in the food supply despite being known to carry heavy loads of toxic and/or radioactive substances.

      Sort of like the Starlink [TM] corn fiasco a few years ago. Where a genetically engineered cultivar was allowed to be grown only for animal feed, having not been approved for humans due to some issues with 'extra' large proteins likely to cause allergic reactions. The stuff sure enough ended up in the food supply anyway, because the farmers and the food processors didn't care about keeping it segregated. And also because of field cross-pollination (corn pollen can travel for miles), which turns regular corn cultivars into GE cultivars by the very next planting. Transgenes are promiscuous, it seems.

      •  Agreed. Perhaps it's better to stick to nonfood (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY, xaxnar, Joieau, kyril

        plants and keep everyone honest whenever possible.

        •  Well, Japan hasn't had much (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY, kyril

          luck using rice and wasabi (a variety of horseradish) to clean up the mess from Fukushima. It all ends up back in the food supply and has spread the contamination far beyond the three most contaminated provinces. Sunflowers haven't proved any better, since they incinerate the crop after harvesting. Sending all the absorbed radioactive elements airborne again. Hell, sewage sludge ash in Tokyo would be considered radioactive waste requiring container disposal in this country - and that's stuff that's already been consumed by humans and got cycled through in the usual way. They dump it into the bay or spread it on cropland.

          Cleanup of industrial pollution is and has always been fraught with shortcomings of the "out of sight out of mind" variety. They built cities along waterways and sited the industries right on those rivers because they could just dump all the waste (including all the 'usual' human waste) into the water and the landscape still looked pretty, even if it didn't smell very good. Until the rivers started catching fire and such...

          Fly ash from coal burning plants, which concentrates heavy metals, mercury and radioactive isotopes (primarily uranium and thorium), is used as "Intert Filler" in agricultural fertilizers. What an absolutely brilliant idea! Just plow it into the ground, nobody will ever notice! Unfortunately, it doesn't do much to nourish the crops, and lots of livestock started dropping dead and...

          Addressing the issue(s) responsibly is next to impossible, though there are many capable and conscientious people who try. They don't get much help from the law or its enforcers. It's not that it CAN'T be done, it simply won't.

  •  The auto industry/oil industry DID know, (10+ / 0-)

    from the very beginning, that adding lead to fuel would have serious health effects on people.  They just didn't care, because they were fighting for their existence....afraid that a different fuel source would gain the advantage and dominate the new market of automobiles if they couldn't find a cheap, effective way to eliminate engine knock in the early gasoline engines.  Public health advocates tried to stop the addition of lead to gasoline in the 1920's  and failed.  Great diary on the subject:

    "Going to church does not make us Christians any more than stepping into our garage makes us a car." --Rev R. Neville

    by catleigh on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 04:58:21 AM PST

  •  I am sure that this isn't new (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, eru, StrayCat, MichaelNY, kyril

    has been common knowledge in the UK for decades. Roadside living studies were the source IIRC.

    •  What is new is... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      trumpeter, MichaelNY, kyril

      The correlations that are being made, and just how lead affects the body and the nervous system. There's a lot more detail in the picture now.

      "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

      by xaxnar on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 06:00:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Government (8+ / 0-)
    The science of today is confirming it was the right decision, even better than we knew. Far from costing us money, it has saved us a tremendous amount, and saved countless lives as well. The private sector didn't do that; government did.
    We the people are "the government". We built that. One of the  points of creating a government of the people, by the people, for the people is so that all of the people can be protected from the greed, indifference and irresponsibility of some of the people.

    The invisible hand of the free market doesn't give a damn about brain damage in children unless it costs them sales. And having found a way to profit from the criminalization of others, brain damage is now a "good" thing from the market perspective. Money has no conscience.

    Why is it so hard to get folks to understand that the government is (or can be) their government.

    Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. ~ Romans 12:21

    by Mickquinas on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 06:03:40 AM PST

  •  Those who don't learn from history (8+ / 0-)

    Are doomed to repeat it.

    We now know that lead poisoning was about more than just paint, and we have evidence that lead in air pollution caused a great deal of individual and societal harm.

    So why (rhetorical question coming up) are we entertaining the idea of fracking?  There is already plenty of anecdotal evidence that fracking causes health issues for humans and animals that live nearby.

    Truth is generally the best vindication against slander - Abraham Lincoln; 1864

    by Debis Diatribes on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 06:08:30 AM PST

  •  I doubt Atrios' point was totally snark (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, StrayCat, kyril

    Everybody was breathing that air, after all.  

  •  This is interesting, but attributing the long-term (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    saluda, Dracowyrm

    decline in crime to the removal of lead from the environment ignores at least one major factor universally acknowledged to be influential.

    The late '80's crime peak corresponded to a huge bulge in the 15-24-year-old male proportion of the population -- I.e., by far the most violent-crime-prone segment of the population.  Subsequently, this proportion has declined substantially, accompanied by a decline in the violent crime rate, which had been predicted by criminologists.  

    Also, as ridiculous as it is on so many levels, the incredibe increase over the last 20+ years in our now insanely high incarceration rate undoubtedly has contributed something to the decrease in violent crime on the streets.

    When you control for the effects on these two factors, I'm not sure how much crime decrease if left to be explained by the decrease in environmental lead.  You also have the problem that the lead levels among at least a couple of generations of young urban Americans BEFORE the huge increase in violent crime rates from the '70's through '80's must've been at least as high as those among the the young men of the '70's & '80's.

  •  personally (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean, kyril

    Personally I think the wide availability of video games lead to the decrease in violent crime.  Mostly because I like video games, and because it annoys the fundies when I say that.

    I don't think there's any single cause, but it does look like lead played a significant part in the epidemic.  And I'm happy to celebrate any improvement and support efforts to improve even further.

    Which means that we should subsidize video game development too, and drive the prices down on games.

    Hey, the dates line up...

  •  It's a great piece of reporting (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, Amber6541, zzyzx, kyril

    I read this yesterday, via a link on Sully's blog, and was really impressed. Drum assembles his evidence and makes his case really well. It's one of the most important articles I've read in the last year or so.

    "One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others." - Lewis Carroll, 1832-1898

    by Audio Guy on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 06:54:02 AM PST

  •  All other western countries (0+ / 0-)

    had a similar spike in crime from the 1960s through the early '90s. Did they all use leaded gasoline and then stop using it simultaneously?

    Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað

    by milkbone on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 07:34:36 AM PST

  •  This research was not as ignored (12+ / 0-)

    by policy makers as you might think.  In the late 1990s and early 200s I was a county legislator in a county in NY that was under pressure to build a new, bigger jail.  Counties across the state were facing similar pressure from the State Commission of Corrections.  I was leading the opposition to jail construction both in my own county and statewide through the State Association of Counties.

    Experts and consultants kept pointing to the steady increase in jail population over the last twenty years and insisting that we had to build for the continuation of that trend over the next twenty.  I was trying to argue that the last 20 years was an anomaly, not the norm, and that it would be foolish to expect that the trend would continue.  I knew I was right, if only because continuing to incarcerate an ever growing percentage of the population is physically and mathematically impossible, but I couldn't offer truely convincing rationals for the rise and fall in crime.  Then I came across the research on lead and crime.

    The first study I saw was one on recidivism where the researcher looked at all kinds of data about people being released from prison and looked for corelations with who came back.  It turned out that the best predictor, by far, was lead blood levels.  That led me to the research on leaded gasoline and crime and the 20 plus year lag.  

    These studies were never the most persuasive elements of the public debate, but they gave me the confidence to continue the fight.   Crime rates had already begun to fall, and I was now sure that trend would continue.

    My county defied the State Commission of Corrections and refused to build a new jail.  Other counties asked us how we did it and followed our example.  The State Commission has now backed off, and newer, bigger jails are not being built all over the state.

  •  While I am not totally convinced, yet, (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eru, Livvy5, xaxnar, StrayCat, MichaelNY, kyril

    I think it is important to realize that very broad social trends can have a simple cause.  The only question with widespread lead exposure is not if it is bad, but just how bad.  Given how complex the human brain is, any damage could have a big effect on a person's life.

    As other commenters have said, it is also a powerful example of how  unregulated free enterprise can lead to substantial harm.

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

    by Thutmose V on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 08:51:19 AM PST

  •  Lead has been the subject of crime studies (7+ / 0-)

    for well over a decade now. To see it receive further validation is good to have, though. But one example of a study from 2007:

    Prenatal and postnatal blood lead concentrations are associated with higher rates of total arrests and/or arrests for offenses involving violence. This is the first prospective study to demonstrate an association between developmental exposure to lead and adult criminal behavior.
    Cities like Chester, PA, near incinerators and coal-fired power plants, of course, are both devastating cases of the health hazards of living on lead-laden soil and the often harsh reality of furious rates of murder and aggravated assault.

    The intentional placement of waste incinerators, coal-fired power plants, and other heavy industry in poor, minority areas is a classic case of shock doctrine and  third worldization inside American borders. Environmental racism is still having an impact in keeping lead levels high in certain areas (fly ash from heavy industry), even if gasoline has been unleaded for forty years.

    Thanks for bringing this important story to life.

    "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~Edward Abbey ////\\\\ "To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships." ~W.E.B. DuBois

    by rovertheoctopus on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 09:02:03 AM PST

  •  I came across this article yesterday and (6+ / 0-)

    remain fascinated and stunned.  This deserves wide readership, acknowledgement and action to clean up the remaining lead in our midst.

    As of this morning November 7, 2012 the Includers are ascendant, and the Excluders are in the minority. [samsoneyes]

    by FlamingoGrrl on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 09:06:33 AM PST

  •  Might I comment my friend Michael Martin (5+ / 0-)

    who is an analyst for the Arizona School Board Association who has been harping on lead for years, demonstrating the correlation between low test scores and lead-based paint problems.  

    for too many years his was among the lone voices on the topic.

    I know Michael reads dailykos, although I do not think he has ever posted a diary here.

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 09:18:48 AM PST

  •  Glad it is CHILD exposure, because in electronics (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, JesseCW, StrayCat, kyril

    manufacture, even with venting, I was exposed to a lot of lead potentially through soldering.

    Oh oh, is that why I occasionally feel the urge to PUNCH certain members of the other party? DOH!

    •  No exposure is good at any age (6+ / 0-)

      But it is clearly worse for children.

      "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

      by xaxnar on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 09:55:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Most other developed countries... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      xaxnar, MichaelNY, kyril, The Jester

      are mandating RoHS compliance, which removes lead & many other dangerous substances from electronics manufacture.

      To some extent, we benefit because it's just easier to produce one version of a product that can be sold worldwide. But, in cases where a company has a  mix of RoHS-compliant products & those which are not RoHS-compliant (or where the non-compliant goods are much cheaper to make), guess where all the hazardous material winds up? USA.

      Freedom isn't free. So quit whining and pay your taxes.

      by walk2live on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 10:54:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Studies showing (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, kyril

    the effect of the lead pipes in Rome contributing to the downfall of the Empire have been out there for a while.  This is really not a surprise.

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 10:02:24 AM PST

  •  Junk Science (0+ / 0-)

    Correlation does not equal causation.

    •  Did you read any of it? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      trumpeter, TomP, Matt Z, bontemps2012

      "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

      by xaxnar on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 10:11:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Obviously not. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        xaxnar, MichaelNY, kyril
        "Groups of children have been followed from the womb to adulthood, and higher childhood blood lead levels are consistently associated with higher adult arrest rates for violent crimes. All of these studies tell the same story: Gasoline lead is responsible for a good share of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century."
        After that, you would need to see strong evidence to the contrary to begin questioning the impact of the underlying lead-poisoning process.

        "We have done nothing to be ashamed of. We have nothing to apologize for." NRA 12/14/2012

        by bontemps2012 on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 01:01:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Junk logic ... (0+ / 0-)

           Correlation is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for causation.

      The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

      by Azazello on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 10:36:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What about other effects? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If lead causes neurological deficiencies that increase crime rates, wouldn't there be other measurable sociological impacts too?

    Shouldn't we see jumps in IQ, college attendance, income levels, etc... All these things have multiple contributing factors (as do crime rates), but all taken together, it could be even more significant than just the impact on crime rates.

    Freedom isn't free. So quit whining and pay your taxes.

    by walk2live on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 10:45:10 AM PST

  •  I grew up in smoggiest area of CA in 60s (0+ / 0-)

    and 70s (during the height of air pollutants before leaded gas and smudge pots were banned.)  But I've never had a desire to commit crimes, except maybe going a little past the speed limit.

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 10:47:15 AM PST

  •  Nope. False correlation. (0+ / 0-)

    I'm all for getting lead out of gasoline, but the clear and well-documented driver of the steady drop in crime is correlated to the steady drop in young males. It's demographics, not lead.

    The lead ban just happened to go into place at about the peak of the Boomers entering their 20s.

    Have a flagon and discuss the news of the day at the sign of the Green Dragon, or hear me roar on Twitter @MarkGreenFuture

    by Dracowyrm on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 11:49:14 AM PST

    •  Nice. Without reading the article. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Of course not.

      "We have done nothing to be ashamed of. We have nothing to apologize for." NRA 12/14/2012

      by bontemps2012 on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 12:09:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sorry, but this seems incorrect (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, xaxnar, kyril

      I remember back in the early 1990s hearing about how there was a big surge in crime expected because of the echo of the baby boom and a surge in the number of young males (basically Generation Y).  I was in university at the time and this was a topic of some discussion.

      The crime increases didn't come.  Instead, it kept dropping.  If demographics were the cause then the height of the Gen Y baby boom--1990--should have been leading to steadily increasing crime rates peaking right around now with so many young male Gen Y's in their late teens and early 20's.  Instead we see the opposite.

  •  Also (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, kyril

    Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

    by A Siegel on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 12:03:46 PM PST

    •  Good story too, what it was like at ground level (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Siegel

      People were making the connection some time ago - and now the amount of evidence is too big to ignore. Or so one would think.

      "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

      by xaxnar on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 05:11:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  people forget how bad it was in the 70s (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, bontemps2012, xaxnar, kyril

    iirc, Philly's murder tally was about double what it is now

    "See? I'm not a racist! I have a black friend!"

    by TheHalfrican on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 12:10:53 PM PST

  •  It's NOT the bulge in ###s of young males. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, MichaelNY, Calamity Jean, kyril

    The article takes time to beat down the simple head-count explanations.

    [Between 1993 and 1996 in NYC], rape rates had dropped 17 percent, assault 27 percent, robbery 42 percent, and murder an astonishing 49 percent. Giuliani was on his way to becoming America's Mayor and Bratton was on the cover of Time. It was a remarkable public policy victory.

    But even more remarkable is what happened next. Shortly after Bratton's star turn, political scientist John DiIulio warned that the echo of the baby boom would soon produce a demographic bulge of millions of young males that he famously dubbed "juvenile super-predators." Other criminologists nodded along. But even though the demographic bulge came right on schedule, crime continued to drop. And drop. And drop. By 2010, violent crime rates in New York City had plunged 75 percent from their peak in the early '90s.

    All in all, it seemed to be a story with a happy ending, a triumph for Wilson and Kelling's theory and Giuliani and Bratton's practice. And yet, doubts remained. For one thing, violent crime actually peaked in New York City in 1990, four years before the Giuliani-Bratton era. By the time they took office, it had already dropped 12 percent.

    Second, and far more puzzling, it's not just New York that has seen a big drop in crime. In city after city, violent crime peaked in the early '90s and then began a steady and spectacular decline. Washington, DC, didn't have either Giuliani or Bratton, but its violent crime rate has dropped 58 percent since its peak. Dallas' has fallen 70 percent. Newark: 74 percent. Los Angeles: 78 percent.

    That's the mistake that conservatives insist on trumpeting: the false claim that more Black kids make for more crime.

    It's a Black thing. And that fails. Then the article looks to econometrics, but the most anyone got was a 20% factor strength for one stand-alone model.

    That finally leaves epidemiology and Pb(CH2CH3)4.

    Good science. Unacceptable for radio-head anti-science "conservatives."

    "We have done nothing to be ashamed of. We have nothing to apologize for." NRA 12/14/2012

    by bontemps2012 on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 12:27:20 PM PST

  •  One question (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bontemps2012, MichaelNY, xaxnar, kyril

    After doing some poking around I see that articles about this very thing started popping up in 2007.  Like this

    New York Times 2007 Article

    I guess the question is: in those additional 5 years has the correlation between unleaded gas banning and violent crime rates continued?  Australia and the UK banned leaded gas only in the 80's, and so you would expect their crime rates to be dropping about right now.

  •  What does this say about Capitalism generally ??? (4+ / 0-)

    We know from uniform experience that Communism failed at protecting the environment. China is failing today, despite efforts at the top. Russia and Eastern Europe are the pits.

    Is capitalism so much better, or have we gotten lucky, more or less?

    In the late '90s, Jessica Wolpaw Reyes was a graduate student at Harvard casting around for a dissertation topic that eventually became a study she published in 2007 as a public health policy professor at Amherst. "I learned about lead because I was pregnant and living in old housing in Harvard Square," she told me, and after attending a talk where future Freakonomics star Levitt outlined his abortion/crime theory, she started thinking about lead and crime. Although the association seemed plausible, she wanted to find out whether increased lead exposure caused increases in crime. But how?
    In states where consumption of leaded gasoline declined slowly, crime declined slowly. Where it declined quickly, crime declined quickly.

    The answer, it turned out, involved "several months of cold calling" to find lead emissions data at the state level. During the '70s and '80s, the introduction of the catalytic converter, combined with increasingly stringent Environmental Protection Agency rules, steadily reduced the amount of leaded gasoline used in America, but Reyes discovered that this reduction wasn't uniform. In fact, use of leaded gasoline varied widely among states, and this gave Reyes the opening she needed. If childhood lead exposure really did produce criminal behavior in adults, you'd expect that in states where consumption of leaded gasoline declined slowly, crime would decline slowly too. Conversely, in states where it declined quickly, crime would decline quickly. And that's exactly what she found.

    O.K., fine.

    More generally, how the Hell do we get a capitalist system to place costs/controls/limits on vital externalities ???

    We got saved from tetraethyl lead by shear dumb-ass luck. The catalytic converter was invented. The ingredients were cheap enough so it got built-in everywhere.

    Tough problem.

    "We have done nothing to be ashamed of. We have nothing to apologize for." NRA 12/14/2012

    by bontemps2012 on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 12:50:32 PM PST

    •  Not luck -- a few dedicated public servants (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The cost-benefit analysis that forced the Reagan admin to phase out leaded gasoline was done by a few dedicated public servants in EPA's Office of Policy Analysis.    

      "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right" -- Sen. (and Major General) Carl Schurz, 1872

      by Diesel Kitty on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 10:38:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have always thought... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    that the decline in crime was attributable to the rise in the internet and cell communications.  The additional time committed, and the additional socialization seem like factors to be accounted for in a detailed examination of the question.

  •  I vaguely remember when I was about (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    4-5 years old, my sister got into trouble for filling up her car on the way home after picking me up from day care.

    Then again, if I were just a little bit more brilliant than I am anyway, I might just have been able to pull off my evil world domination plot.

    So perhaps you all caught a break there.

    You can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America.

    by Eric Stratton on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 05:32:38 PM PST

  •  Loved that article. Did you also know Obama ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ... Passed An Amendment Into Law That Pressured The EPA to Comply With New Lead-Paint Regulations After Seven Years of Delay.

    In 2005, Obama passed an amendment, which became law, to the FY 2006 Department of Interior Appropriations Act prohibiting the use of funds in the bill to delay or contravene implementation of an existing but unmet statutory requirement passed by Congress in 1992 that the EPA rewrite regulations on dispersal of lead paint by home remodeling contractors by October 1996. As of July 2005, the regulations still had not been written. Weeks after Obama’s amendment passed the Senate, Obama received commitments in writing and during a Senate hearing that the EPA would comply with the law.

    According to an Obama press release, "In 1992, Congress required the EPA to write regulations relating to the dispersal of lead paint by contractors during home remodeling by October, 1996. As of July 2005, these regulations still have not been written. In April, Administrator Johnson stated that to address the problem of lead paint poisoning, the EPA ‘will determine what additional steps may be necessary, including regulation’ despite the fact that the 1992 law does not say the regulations are optional." [SA 1061 agreed to in Senate by Unanimous Consent, 6/28/05, Obama Press Release, 7/25/05; H.R. 2361, Became Public Law No: 109-54, 8/2/05]

    Stop the party of Gut & Spend policies that gut our Earned Benefits programs like Social Security and Medicare and spends on tax breaks for the wealthy elite.

    by jillwklausen on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 09:30:49 PM PST

  •  It was cost-benefit, not catalytic converters (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, linkage

    Contrary to one of the statements in the diary, it is NOT true that EPA's original motivation for the lead phasedown was to protect catalytic converters.  The requirement that all gasoline stations had to sell unleaded gasoline WAS adopted in order to protect catalytic converters, but the rules limiting leaded gasoline to 0.1 g/gallon and ultimately phasing it out were driven by cost-benefit analysis, done by a few dedicated civil servants in EPA's Office of Policy Analysis.

    There were three big benefits identified for lead phaseout: reduction in the neurological damage to children, reduction in high blood pressure in adults, and reduction in maintenance costs for cars.  My role was documenting the maintenance cost benefits -- spark plug life, valve life, exhaust system life, engine life, less frequent oil changes.  More importantly, I showed the falsity of the lead industry propaganda that older cars HAD to have leaded gasoline or their engines would be damaged.  Although that propaganda was empirically disproven, it had tremendous political weight -- that's why EPA ultimately waited a decade to take the allowable lead level from 0.1 g/gallon to zero.

    At the time, EPA staff calculated that the benefits of the lead phaseout were 10 times the costs.  The Reaganites had come in talking about how all regulations should pass a cost-benefit test, so they were hoist with their own petard.  The country owes a great debt to Joel Schwarz and Hugh Pitcher -- civil servants who hunkered down and did their jobs despite the best efforts of Ann Gorsuch and the other Reagan political appointees in charge.   Subsequent experience has shown that the benefits were greatly underestimated, and the costs were over-estimated, so the actual benefit/cost ratio was much higher than 10:1.  I am proud to have played a modest part in that work, and to have contributed to lead phaseout in 5 other countries as well (Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Thailand, Sri Lanka) as well.

    "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right" -- Sen. (and Major General) Carl Schurz, 1872

    by Diesel Kitty on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 10:36:11 PM PST

    •  Thank you for this information - and your service (0+ / 0-)

      You'd never know it to listen to the right wing, but there are real heroes in the government, working mostly anonymously to do their jobs - and the right thing.

      "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

      by xaxnar on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 05:14:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I read this (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, MichaelNY, linkage

    or rather something similar a couple of years ago in relation to lead paint and crime levels in Pittsburgh.  The data was convincing and dramatic, so I was thoroughly convinced before seeing this article.  Never thought much of it when I was younger and what I considered "flaming liberals" went into paroxysm over children and lead paint; in the conservative house where I grew up the attitude was that if you were dumb enough to let your children eat paint, it was your own stupid fault and they would probably have grown up stupid without the chemical assist.

    But we all breathe the air.  And in that same conservative house, choking and complaining about breathing car exhaust was simply considered "whining".

  •  Another inadvertent "experiment" I seem (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, MichaelNY

    to recall is one on smoking and lung cancer. Part of the population was "allowed" to smoke, another part was held as a control group, and the controls had a lot less lung cancer. Then the control group was allowed to start smoking, and their lung cancer rates (with appropriate time lag) went up to match those of the original group. The groups were called "men" and "women," of course, and the "allowing" was societal norm, not anything intentionally controlled. But still the smoking rates and the lung cancer rates followed this pattern.

    We all understand that freedom isn't free. What Romney and Ryan don't understand is that neither is opportunity. We have to invest in it.
    Julian Castro, DNC 4 Sept 2012

    by pixxer on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 08:07:26 AM PST

    •  Same thing with guns (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pixxer, MichaelNY

      The NRA and the firearms industry is 'reaching out' to women. Self-defense and empowerment is the marketing hook, but it's all about selling more guns.

      Should be interesting to see what kind of effect that has on women and firearms related accidents and fatalities - not that the industry and their friends in Congress and the state legislatures will want us to know. The Newtown shooter after all didn't buy those guns and ammo - his mother did.

      "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

      by xaxnar on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 08:33:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good job, thanks for writing this up. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, MichaelNY

    To those who love to remind us that,"correlation is not causation," please understand that correlation quite often is causation. In fact, it is hard to imagine causation without correlation.
    Perhaps we should be saying, "correlation is not always causation."

    The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

    by Azazello on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 10:28:51 AM PST

  •  Superior Diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, MichaelNY

    A must read for everyone.

    GOP- Fact Free since 1981!

    by KingGeorgetheTurd on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 10:44:39 AM PST

  •  If you live in a home built before 1979 ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    you must use a "lead safety certified" contractor if you disturb the paint.  Or take a local course yourself to become certified.  

    Here is a link to the EPA's current lead information.  

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