202751 Ethical implications: Elevated blood lead levels in high risk populations

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 10:30 AM

Sr. Rosemary Donley, PhD, ANP, FAAN , School of Nursing, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, DC
Eileen Sarsfield, PhDc, PHCNS, BC , School of Nursing, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC
Public health nurses have a professional mandate to improve the public's health. This presentation will present a case study about the recent "lead in drinking water crisis" in Washington, DC, which was precipitated by a change in the water purification system. The effect of the change caused lead to leach from the older pipes into the drinking water. The presenters will analyze this case in the light of environmental justice and the application of the Precautionary Principle. Environmental justice proposes that no group of individuals of any race, ethnic or socioeconomic group should bear an unequal portion of harmful environmental consequences. The Precautionary Principle states that when the public's health is at risk, it may not be necessary to wait until there is scientific evidence to take actions to protect the public. Edwards, Triantafyllidou & Best (2009) reported for DC children ≤ 30 months no strong correlation between water lead levels (WLL) and elevated blood lead (EBL). However, these findings reflected data from children in all 8 of DC's wards. When these data were analyzed according to zip codes, there was a strong correlation between specific zip codes and elevated blood lead levels. This "geographic phenomenon" showed that the incidence of EBL was 2.4 times higher in children in high-risk neighborhoods. Using lead in the DC water supply as a case study, this presentation will discuss how public health nurses implement the core functions of public health to assure a safe, just environment and a clean water supply.

Learning Objectives:
1.Discuss a framework which supports environmental justice and the Precautionary Principle in light of the public health benefit of clean water. 2. Describe at least two methods that public health nurses can utilize to collect data about the quality of their communitiesí water supply. 3.Discuss at least two creative actions that public health nurses can take to advocate for underserved, vulnerable populations to minimize environmental hazards.

Keywords: Water Quality, Environmental Justice

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am program director and faculty in a Immigrant, Refugee and Global Health Graduate Nursing Program and knowledgeable in this area.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.