An Open Letter To Gina McCarthy: “(mostly) NOT fixed”!.
I guess #EarthWeek is the week for “Open Letters” – first to Sherwin Williams and now, today, to Gina McCarthy, the Director of the EPA. Poetic in a way – given politicians seem to be in the same camp as former (and current) producers of lead paint: they both seem to want to dismiss the issue of childhood lead poisoning entirely. I guess that’s easier than tackling it head on. I can tell you this fight has not been easy with “opponents” like these (the paint industry, with the help of the CDC and now the EPA!.)
Lead Poisoning is “(mostly) fixed”? REALLY?!
Sometimes it’s best to be polite. That’s what people do. They’re polite, so they can try to work the system, move forward in incremental steps toward their goals… or perhaps because they are enmeshed in the “political ecosystem” (or wish to be).
Me, I don’t want to be polite – there’s not much of an incentive here.
I’m not a politician; I don’t work for an agency or business that is subject to political pressure or censorship.
I am a mother of lead poisoned children. We’re a special breed; we carry an insistently strong moral compass —one forged from a bull***t-resistant alloy, tempered in the furnace of hell.
We bristle at half-truths, misleading statistics and outright false claims.
I am not qualified to address the other three claims in the article, but I take issue with the inclusion of a claim that lead poisoning in this country could be conceivably characterized as “(mostly) fixed” at this juncture!
My kids already have permanent brain damage from lead poisoning—initially because of an utter lack of any federal regulation, and secondarily because of a system-wide lack of enforcement of the (subsequently enacted and woefully inadequate) existing legislation – so politeness went out the window umm…10 years ago—August 2005, to be precise, the year and month my babies were poisoned.
I – and others within our community (a strong community made up of hundreds of parents of lead-poisoned kids) – celebrate the accomplishments of pioneers like Herbert Needleman, Clair Patterson, Joel Schwartz and Howard Mielke—who courageously – and at great personal costs – faced down the well-funded, well-organized corruption and graft of the industrial “lead mob” and their “privately owned” scientists, medical experts and strategic political allies to research and publicize the extreme dangers of lead and eventually force it out of American gasoline.* We also celebrate the historic accomplishments of pioneers within the EPA and Congress (back when many politicians on both sides of the aisle still occasionally actually voted their conscience!)
*[well…except for all the “exemptions”—collectible cars, racing cars, go carts, farm equipment, 2-cycle engines (lawn mowers, leaf blowers, string trimmers, chain saws, etc.), AvGas (used in small planes), etc., which – yes, unbelievably – STILL. LEGALLY. BURN. LEADED. FUEL. TODAY!]
All of these hard-won triumphs, while remarkable and significant, were just one (crucial) step in what is turning out to be a very long and tortuous journey to document, bear witness to and struggle to contain, and hopefully – God help us – reverse the spreading evil and devastation of the rapacious ghoul that is refined lead (in its many forms—dust, fumes, mining and manufacturing emissions that have contaminated air, topsoil, aquifers and even – irrevocably – entire villages, towns and cities—some right here in our own country—as well as content – intentional/known or not – in consumer goods ranging from batteries and electronics to everyday items made of brass alloys, like doorknobs, keys and plumbing fittings; crystal and ceramic dishware; porcelain bathtubs and sinks; jewelry; antiques and beloved family heirlooms; art supplies, flexible plastic and rubber items, cosmetics, foodstuffs—such as spices and traditional medicinal preparations, wine, chocolate, and more; and of course, housepaint—and paint and coatings found on virtually every category of goods sold today…) since it was unleashed upon this earth (through persistent and wide spread mining of deep earth sources of this toxic heavy metal), especially in light of the enormity and persistence of what is commonly known as America’s Secret Epidemic—widespread, low-level, [often undiagnosed/misdiagnosed] lead poisoning today).
Gina. #Sigh. You (A top official in one of our most important government agencies) just dismissed with a waive of your pen the 22,000,000 [twenty-two million] children in America today that have had an unsafe level of lead in their blood in their lifetime (an enormous number of whom suffer, as a direct result, varying degrees of permanent brain damage and learning disabilities as well as a panoply of other health impairments)!
The quote from the article that is at issue:
By trotting out last season’s CDC spinwear, “less than 1%” of American children have unsafe levels of lead in their blood” you are proffering that same unconscionably misleading, superficial/contrived snapshot – a statistic which is based on lead in children…
- only at levels over 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood [“hey, it used to be 10”]
- only in current circulatory suspension (“in their blood “)
- only in children between the ages of one and five years old
- only at a given moment in time
….and thus vastly understating the true count and fate of the young victims (estimated currently at 22,000,000) who have been lead poisoned, and are still children (American citizens under 18 years of age) today…
- ignoring those older than five years old
- ignoring those younger than one year old
- ignoring those with a blood lead level below 5 micrograms per deciliter, yet who still had a blood lead level over 2.0 or 2.5
- ignoring those or who used to have a higher blood lead level but no longer do—yet the lead has done its (initial) devastating damage – having permanently damaged the brain and then been deposited in the bones and body tissues, and so those children (my children for instance) no longer “count” in that misleading (simplified, dismissive, inappropriate, lead-industry influenced) entirely manipulated statistic….
…you are perpetuating the myths that “lead poisoning is largely handled”, a “thing of the past” or “affects only certain ‘at risk’ populations”—all dangerous falsehoods historically crafted and promulgated for decades through an extremely well-funded propaganda campaign by the lead industry!
So what is the explanation for your Earth Day article’s outrageously misleading George Bush-like, “mission-accomplished!”-style boast incorporating that discredited talking point?
Have you not done your homework? Have you not met with any scientists in the last decade?
I heard your primary residence is near Boston. Well – I grew up in Hingham—and I know personally how much lead is in the environment there… just look around… take a close look at the public buildings, churches, historic monuments and museums and schools and then take yourself on a tour of the most prominent historic homes in the area – and it will truly begin to dawn on you that not one child permanently damaged by their early lead exposure should be excluded from the head count for this pervasive epidemic.
Have you made an effort to talk to parents of lead poisoned children?
Have you read any of the plethora of peer-reviewed reports, articles and studies -settled science – that clearly show that there is no ‘safe’ level of lead in a child’s blood? Reports, articles and studies that show that clearly and unequivocally demonstrate that levels as low as a blood lead level 2.0 (micrograms per deciliter) can easily cause long term health impacts and learning disabilities? [ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, Autism spectrum symptoms, frontal lobe impairment issues, cognitive deficits, gastrointestinal complications, impulsive behavior, immune system issues and more?]
And the corresponding reports from the CDC itself that show that 1 in 3 U.S. kids under 18 today has had a blood lead level of 2.5 or higher in their lifetime. Yes, that’s 22,000,000 kids…. NOT “less than 1%.”!… That’s 31%, Gina! [Perhaps math isn’t your strong suit? Maybe you are dyslexic or have a brain injury (from lead exposure? like my child does – plunging your visual memory into the 4th percentile like his, and causing difficulty keeping numbers on paper straight?)]
Sorry if I sound angry, but I am—the American public deserves to know the truth about why and how a wholly preventable man-made poison [deep-mined, highly-refined, unbelievably neurotoxic industrial lead compounds] was allowed to be burned in combustion tion engines everywhere and slathered onto the walls of countless millions of our homes, (some estimates run as high as 80 million American homes that currently may have potential lead paint hazards), schools, soils, children’s play areas and consumer products—and that has tragically left American society with a 50.9 BILLION dollar ANNUAL economic bill—and our taxpayer-funded government agencies tasked with our protection are STILL “sugar-coating” (=lying about) this issue.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the EPA. I have some good friends and peers I respect that work for the EPA. I think the EPA had (has?) a noble official charter and some good intentions. And I acknowledge and am thankful for the good that actually has been accomplished.
But when the ONE.Single.Most.Powerful.Person in an organization shares misinformation in a prominent public article – information that is then re-shared by the President of our country via social media to millions upon millions of people, we are past the time for politeness and civility.
Please learn your facts Gina.
Meet with us, the families of the Lead Safe America Foundation, each with a child or children who has RECENTLY (in this past decade) been poisoned by lead.
Our “Secret” support group alone has more than 260 parents of children who have been poisoned by lead in recent years – and that only reflects we few who took the initiative of getting our kids tested [despite the ubiquity of active lead hazards in tens of millions of American homes and schools and daycares and playgrounds, most American kids are still not tested—and their consequent learning, behavioral and health impacts chalked up to being “mysterious” or of “unknown origin”].
Most parents – because of misinformation like you shared on #EarthDay2015 – never think to test their children.
Why would they?
Why would they be concerned?
Afterall the CDC and the EPA tell us this problem is “(mostly) solved.”
….and yes I still want to meet with you, Gina to set the record straight. Better yet, come visit me in Portland, Oregon – come spend a day with me and my kids – my kids who have permanent brain damage from lead poisoning.
In the meantime, please start by watching the trailer to my film MisLEADMovie.com – the film is a crash course on this issue and I’ll wager it will definitely prompt you to rethink this “(mostly) solved” bull***t.
BTW: I will happily come show the current 94 minute rough-cut of the film to you and everyone in your office. I know there is a (perhaps unofficial) EPA “ban” on some employees engaging with me and with my film. Several of my EPA friends have told me in hushed tones, “I’m not allowed to be at this screening as a representative of my employer” or “I can only be here if I don’t tell you who I work for” – but perhaps you can lift this little “ban”? In fact my work has been about supporting your work—and driving funding to your programs. We even have an EPA employee in the film! EPA representatives who have seen the film have all loved it, and pretty much everyone who has seen the film has said they actually learned something new from watching it—even EPA employees. Perhaps you will learn something new too?
Tamara Rubin (co-written/ edited by my husband Leonard Rubin)
Lead Safe America Foundation
(swear-words and emphasis are my own and should in no way reflect upon the Board, Staff, Sponsors or Volunteers of LSAF 😉 )
This letter is in response to the following article that Gina published on April 21, 2015 (which was shared in a Tweet by President Obama on 4/23): http://grist.org/article/here-are-4-big-pollution-problems-epa-has-mostly-fixed-already/