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June 4th EPA Meeting; Tamara’s Response

AviIntroduction (including as we will be formally submitting this to the EPA comments on this issue):

Tamara Rubin is trained and certified in using a Niton X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometer (“XRF”) [a “state-of-the-art”, top-of-the-line $40,000 precision scientific instrument used for detection and quantitative analysis of lead and other metallic elements].

Tamara Rubin (through the nonprofit she founded, also has distributed more than 16,000 3M LeadCheck® swab kits [a proven, simple, readily-available, fairly inexpensive (less than $10, retail) chemical reagent-based test used for “first-pass” direct detection of lead in exposed painted surfaces] in the past year to homeowners, contractors and public health departments (to be distributed to families for free), as a resource for them to gain insight and knowledge to protect their children.

Tamara is supportive of all testing resources available to families and contractors [especially those that are vital to low-income families and working class folks—who often cannot spontaneously afford the unplanned expense of professional XRF assessments as a preliminary screening option when a child’s blood lead test result shows an elevated blood lead level (or a parent in an older home learns of the risks and wants to be proactive to safeguard against that outcome!)]

Reactive agent technology and XRF testing are complementary and mutually beneficial; NOT mutually exclusive.

Reactive agent testing typically inspires consumers and contractors to follow up with more formal/extensive professional XRF testing, dust wipe sampling and soil and water testing.

This is a conclusion drawn from and based on Lead Safe America’s direct experience with the many thousands of parents who have contacted us for help since we were founded in 2011(and since our first website was made live in 2008 before that.) Parents whose virtual hands we have held (from afar) throughout their struggle to find information, answers and assistance in the effort to protect (or find treatment for) their children.

Highly sensitive reactive agent testing is one of we have for primary prevention of childhood lead poisoning – an epidemic that costs the United States more than $50.9 billion annually (in terms of the impact on children’s health – not even taking into account cost of long term impacts, resultant special education costs and remediation of housing.) Primary prevention is key.

…And So This Happened… (this is the OTHER thing I did on June 4th!)
The blog-post below summarizes statements, comments and concepts that I brought up in my “testimony” during the 6/4 EPA Meeting on the topic of reactive agent lead testing technology.

Thursday – 6/4 – about 1 p.m.  (on an airplane)

I’m tired…. and still a bit livid.

I’m amazed by the things I heard this morning—amazed that people with extremely ignorant/misguided and illogical/irresponsible, special interest-driven “opinions” like the ones shared today are being afforded an opportunity to participate in this “dialogue” to determine policies ostensibly concerning the protection and welfare of children!

Not only are these characters being afforded a voice, but, given what I have learned [that—in something right out of some dark Orwellian dystopian satire—some of them are actually contractors currently funded by an agency of our government – HUD (talk about conflict of interest / regulatory capture!) with a directive to develop a “less-sensitive detection tool”(no, you really can’t make this stuff up!)]—they are, presumably, (absent a Deus Ex Machina) likely to “win” this “fight”!

Let me reflect on this out loud again: some of the people who testified this morning (specifically including David Cox with QuanTech, Inc) actually have received significant GOVERNMENT GRANTS from HUD to fund research to try to implement and prove HUD’s nonsensical concepts (including efforts to make the federally approved tools for testing for lead-in-paint LESS effective [less sensitive] than those currently available). Ri-di-cu-lous (and extremely dangerous).

At what point did phony “science” (doublespeak for blatant political and commercial interests-driven manipulation of statistics in the service of pre-determined desired outcomes) become an overt priority over the health and well being of our children?

But let me back up a bit. Did I say I am tired? …(rambling a bit… no proper introduction… sorry about that!)

I was up until nearly midnight last night (Wednesday 6/3.)

Last night, after getting my own #leadpoisoned kids to bed, I packed my bags and put some last preparations in place for the outreach event I am having this evening on Twitter.

I am (right now) on a plane from Portland, Oregon to Los Angeles, California so I can spend some time talking with celebrities who are committed to getting the word out about environmental causes. [Long ago I came to the realization that the “weight” of the voice of a celebrity (in today’s Internet Age) is stronger than the weight of federal regulation and legislation – especially when it comes to environmental toxicity.]

The same day as my Twitter event – today (Thursday, June 4th) – an EPA meeting in Washington, D.C. was scheduled (from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.) to discuss the alleged “flaws” in the reactive agent testing methodologies (including consumer-accessible / affordable / consumer-friendly tools like 3M/ LeadCheck® Swabs)—considerations, concerns and possible “solutions.”

I actually had a plane ticket to fly to Washington yesterday – so I could be there physically in person to testify at the meeting, but I am tired (did I say that?)—it turns out that 10 years as the parent of lead poisoned children has actually significantly impacted my health—so instead of flying to D.C. to make the meeting in person, I went to the doctor for a physical and a barrage of tests (and cancelled my flight.)

I’m truly sorry I couldn’t be there in person, but it’s probably for the best – as – once I started hearing the opening comments – I may have done something “irrational” – or at least cried a lot—and consequently risked looking “unprofessional” in a public forum…

Luckily the meeting had some integrated technology to enable me to attend via webinar from Oregon. As a result I participated in the chatroom with dozens of others around the country (and the world) and listened to the live testimony from industry representatives.

As I said, I’m already not feeling so great today (we could talk about that later), but I truly #wanted to vomit in response to some of the testimony I heard from HUD representatives and representatives from a HUD-funded technology firm developing new testing methodologies as well as representatives from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA).

This meeting was very, very important.

To attend this meeting I had to wake up at 5:30 am (after staying up very late last night) – and go online and optimize the software – but I was setup and standing ready to participate at 6:00 am.. 9:00 am D.C. time… [It turns out that I was technically the first person at the meeting – it was THAT important.]

The most disgusting/bizarre piece of “evidence” I heard presented – evidence that was (in the opinion of the speaker) ostensibly “damning” of the functionality of the LeadCheck® swabs was that the swab tests were “too sensitive”!


They said that the currently available test kits were not a good option for contractors to use as they caused “unnecessary expense” – because “unnecessary precautions” were then undertaken (under the RRP rule)!

The #pretzellogic was that the LeadCheck® swabs tested positive for lead (by turning bright red) at levels below which HUD currently officially considered paint a lead paint hazard —with the allegation being that this “excessive” accuracy was somehow a “problem”.

Are you KIDDING ME?!

The 3M LeadCheck® swab kits test down to 600 ppm lead in paint. This means that it instantly turns pink or red at levels as low as 600 ppm lead.

  • The 1978 legislation banning lead in paint acknowledges that paint with over 600 ppm lead IS A PROBLEM.
  • The State of Wisconsin acknowledges that 600 ppm of lead in house paint is a problem.
  • 600 ppm is a perfectly reasonable standard [still short, in fact, of compliance with many current conservative recommendations in the scientific community] for a reactive agent methodology and is closer* to genuinely reducing the enormous continual human and financial impact of the #hidden epidemic of childhood lead poisoning in this country.
  • *The Consumer Product Safety Commission acknowledges that levels in the 90 to 100 ppm range (for lead) is toxic to children.

The HUD standard of paint to be considered “lead” paint (using XRF testing) is 1 milligram per cm squared (of lead in the paint) or higher. This works out in many cases (depending on the testing method/ software/ XRF type/ paint thickness / etc.) to 5000 ppm lead – and sometimes more. 5000 ppm is the other HUD standard used to determine that lead in paint is a problem / a health-risk to children.

In the current preposterous scenario (generated by current HUD standards/guidelines), it is possible for lead paint to have 4999 ppm lead in it (or 4,000 or even 3,000) but to read as “less than 1 milligram per cm squared” – a level that is then considered “negative” by nearly every hazard assessor and federally funded public agency out there.

However I don’t think that anyone could actually argue that 4,999 ppm lead in a painted surface (or 4,000 or 3,000) is safe!

Said another way; an XRF reading of “0.5” (milligrams per cm squared) is obviously in fact QUITE TOXIC—and puts children at substantial risk (…while not always directly translatable measurement-to-measurement – it is possibly as high as 2,500 ppm lead – or higher!) yet trained hazard assessors following federal guidelines will call that “safe”.

It is not that the swab kits are TOO sensitive, it is that the Federal (HUD) standard for determining whether or not lead remediation techniques are required in renovation is TOO LAX… the 5,000 ppm (or 1 microgram per cm squared) is ridiculously unsafe and was an arbitrary determination for a hazard level – NOT BASED ON SCIENCE. NOT BASED ON SCIENCE. NOT PROTECTIVE OF CHILDREN. NOT BASED ON SCIENCE.


To punish the best, most affordable, consumer- and contractor-friendly tool for instantly testing for lead paint by calling it “too sensitive” is some kind of ridiculous (sick) joke!

Give me a room full of the children of the guys from HUD, WDMA or NAHM – let me sand that paint in that room that is “negative”—comes out to a 0.5 milligram per cm squared on an XRF—and I assure you that each and every one of those children will walk out of that room poisoned. Poisoned. If these guys disagree, maybe they can try this little experiment? Maybe using their pets first—as using their children would constitute child abuse. (No—that’s animal abuse,) Come to think of it – I think their very assertions are tantamount to the promotion of child abuse—can we report them to Child Protective Services for this?

Industry shills in the meeting kept making the case that somehow “accidentally” doing RRP work (proper containment) on a pre-1978 house that tested positive with a LeadCheck® (so, 600 ppm or above) but tested “negative” with a (HUD-style pre-programmed paint mode pass/fail software) XRF (AGAIN: “negative” by virtue of arbitrarily set, industry-influenced, scientifically woefully-outdated HUD standards) is a WASTE OF MONEY.


Are you f’king kidding?

Do you have even a cursory level of understanding of the incredibly low threshold (trace amount) of lead in house-dust that it takes to poison a child?!

….To poison a child—and cause lifelong impairments—learning disabilities and behavioral disorders…

“Expensive”?! How does that expense compare to the lost potential of our children or the need for special ed interventions? [We finally found an appropriate school for our lead poisoned son and it would cost $24,000 a year. $24,000. That’s coincidentally the same cost as the botched paint job that poisoned him. In year 2000 dollars, special ed costs alone were determined to cost the nation more than $77 BILLION annually—a number that has significantly risen since then.]

I “give up”! [I “gave” up on “the system” a long time ago!] I will testify again if you want me to. I will try to be as coherent and concise as possible – but I will not expect the EPA or HUD to authentically “listen”… especially given they are funding research to make reactive agent testing methodologies LESS SENSITIVE than the current ones. Are you f’in nuts in Washington? [You truly must be. Really.]

XRF testing is good, reactive agent testing is good. LeadCheck® kits do not result in “false positives” – truly never – if used properly – never.  Even when used on red paint – the pink/red of the reagent is actually of a very different character/color than might “wear off from red paint”.  It is not that they are a “false positives” it is that they are a MORE ACCURATE READING than current (broken/ failed) HUD standards allow for using XRF technology.

I still #feel like vomiting – just thinking about the statements from industry today.

HEY WINDOW INDUSTRY GUY—don’t you see?! If MORE people use SWAB TESTING to determine TRUE POSITIVES (at a greater sensitivity than is being proposed) then MORE PEOPLE will want to replace (or repair or refinish) their windows!  YOU WIN – you will get more business as a result of the continued use of LeadCheck® swabs (and similar products.)  Are you daft?

HEY XRF INDUSTRY REP—don’t you see?!  The positive results from swab tests by homeowners and contractors actually RESULT IN THEM CALLING IN A HAZARD ASSESSOR with an XRF! YOU WIN – you get business out if it; people ask questions and want quantifiable answers after seeing initial qualitative results from a swab.

There’s also a “trickle down” impact of these outlandish federally driven initiatives. If you (meaning the feds) call a tool ineffective (by incorrectly saying it gives false positives by ridiculous and unsafe current HUD standards) then consumers think the tool is not useful, when in fact it is INCREDIBLY useful and affordable. Are you trying to “keep” people poisoned? Why would you perpetrate this on consumers—robbing them of one of the most effective tools out there by slandering its reputation?

In the meeting I mentioned mama Emma, who contacted me about 10 days ago because her baby was poisoned. She rents her home and lives in upstate New York. Her husband works and she is a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM) to three children. She used the test kits and found “‘pink’ and ‘red’ all over her house. This makes sense. After all, her baby tested positive with a blood lead level of 18. I told her to move out immediately – that the risk of permanent brain damage to her baby was not worth it and that she should find a new/ safe place to live.

Then the county-employed hazard assessor came out to Emma’s house. His XRF read most of her interior surfaces as “less than one”  [milligram per centimeter squared.] His conclusion (based on the misinformation that he was taught, combined with misguided HUD standards):  It was “safe to live in the home”; there was “no reason for her to have moved out”… if she “just stepped up her cleaning a bit everything would be fine” [“Better cleaning will protect a child from being lead poisoned” is a long-ago discredited mythical notion that world lead prevention and health policy expert Bruce Lanphear debunks in my film, MisLEAD: Amerrica’s Secret Epidemic, explaining that in a famous definitive study, “we found it made NO DIFFERENCE!”].

FOLKS! This is a POISONED CHILD…  those “less than ones” were NOT “NEGATIVE”.


The test swabs DO NOT LIE – NOR were they “FALSE POSITIVES”. They were TRUE positives that indicate levels of lead that are HAZARDOUS to a child—yet below the currently ridiculously-outdated too lax HUD STANDARDS!

Luckily, Emma is listening to the parent advocates at Lead Safe America to make sure her children are safe and NOT to the county employed hazard assessor (whose advice should frankly be considered criminally ignorant.)

And then there is the ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM – which again – like the “trickle down” concern mentioned above for swab kits is being completely ignored: the ARBITRARY HUD standards were set based on WHAT HUD FELT THEY COULD AFFORD TO REMEDIATE USING PUBLIC FUNDING FOR FEDERALLY SUBSIDIZED INTERVENTIONS.

ELEPHANT: What happens when Sally Homeowner (who is self-paying for a hazard assessment and related remediation) gets a hazard assessment using an XRF?  Does the hazard assessor use the ACTUAL levels of lead in paint that we KNOW are unsafe for children (the threshold of 600 ppm?) NO! The Hazard assessors use the FEDERAL standard meant for LOW INCOME families for whom the work is being subsidized!

This is pure Bull$hiT!:

1.) there should be no difference in standard (income level should not impact whether or not a child is ACTUALLY protected vs. only protected to federally affordable standards.) And
2.) as a self-paying (and even wealthy?) homeowner of an historic home,  if I, Sally Homeowner, realized that the hazard assessor I was paying was not using the latest available science and information for what is considered a hazard but is instead using standards that are only considered affordable for interventions by HUD – I would be f’in pissed! The hazard assessment I just paid for would be leaving my kids at risk! (by calling “less than 1” readings “negative.”)

MY Recommendations:

  1. Immediately Cancel QuanTech, Inc.’s HUD funded research to develop a less sensitive test. (Readers, please feel free to send them an e-mail discussing why what they are trying to do is essentially orchestrated, federally-funded criminal negligence that will leave children at risk: is one of their emails.)
  2. Update HUD threshold at which it considers lead paint toxic to children to 600 ppm of lead (reflecting the long-held responsible scientific and medical research consensus); stop spending all this money on trying to make the test kits less sensitive – we KNOW 600 ppm is a problem!
  3. Regulate and mandate that all XRF software returns results in “ppm” – or at least allow for a 0.1 milligram per cm squared [that is zero point one—not one point zero!] reading to be considered potentially unsafe and no longer consider a “less than 1” reading “negative” (this is quite trivial, from a technical and cost standpoint—the only challenge is a political one!)
  4. Stop the infighting – we all benefit from helping children – including the NAHB…and the window guys!  You guys have kids too, right?

Note 1:  Lead Safe America and I have won two awards from HUD for my advocacy work [National Healthy Homes Hero Award in 2011, and Best Overall Communication Campaign in 2014].  Hopefully they weren’t just trying to patronize/shut me up on these important issues.

Note 2: While 3M donates product to Lead Safe America, I am not compensated by 3M /LeadCheck® in any way for this. My opinions are my own as a mother of lead poisoned children and experienced advocate for thousands of other parents of lead-poisoned children.

Note 3:  I profoundly thank my lovely husband of fourteen years, Leonard Rubin, for his tireless efforts as my editor — making sense out of my passionate rants so that other people can read them and understand where I am coming from.  I love you, Len.

4 Responses to June 4th EPA Meeting; Tamara’s Response

  1. Ed Marsh June 9, 2015 at 7:25 pm #

    Nice Job Tamara;

    It must have been a challenge not to go and get another plane ticket to go there and ring there necks personally. I give you a lot of credit for all that you do……

    • Tamara June 9, 2015 at 9:46 pm #

      Yup! That’s what I wanted to do, strangle them (and I am generally not a violent person!) 🙂

  2. Tamara June 9, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

    Of interest for this thread… a comment from a representative of one of the companies that testified at the meeting:

    From: Gary Dewalt
    Date: Sun, Jun 7, 2015 at 9:17 AM
    Subject: Re: [Leadnet] XRF and spot test kits

    One point of clarification on the meeting…
    David Cox and Gary Dewalt were in attendance for QuanTech, Inc.
    Although we are not test kit vendors, we have considerable funding from HUD (under a technical studies grant) to complete the development of a test kit that we have demonstrated to HUD (in a past grant) as having a very good chance at meeting the two-sided criterion for the RRP rule and we are pretty up-to-date on what is out there for lead-in-paint test kits. A very brief presentation was given by D. Cox stating that we were doing this developmental work and that yes, the most stringent part of the criterion is meeting the <10% false positive requirements with a confidence interval of 95%. This is partly because the way the data evaluations are being done ("operationalized") for the RRP rule under the ETV program...a test kit will fail the false positive requirement if it gets more than 1 false positive result from a group of 400 samples that have true lead levels at 0.6 mg per square the original development of the RRP rule, no one commented on the false positive rate requirement for test kits (that was an oversight on our part as we did not fully appreciate until recently the impact of the false positive requirement)....we will try to be more proactive in providing relevant comments to EPA on this important issue.
    We strive to provide a practical low-cost method of testing for LBP as an alternative to XRF and laboratory analysis and are working on it as fast as we can...
    Gary Dewalt

  3. Jen May 7, 2016 at 11:27 am #

    Hi Tamara,
    I’m purchasing a 1950 house which is being completely renovated. I am concerned of any potential lead dust after the renovations. I’m debating whether I should have a full blown lead test and/or lead dust wipes. Are there any lead dust wipes kits available for self use. Is it worth paying the extra money for a professional? Any input and/or advice on my situation is greatly appreciated!

    Thank you,

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