219123 Flawed science begets flawed policy: EPA's Lead and Copper Rule, partial lead service line replacement, and elevated blood lead levels among children

Monday, November 8, 2010 : 4:30 PM - 4:50 PM

Yanna Lambrinidou, PhD , Parents for Nontoxic Alternatives, Washington, DC
Marc A. Edwards, PhD , Civil and Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
In January 2010, CDC issued a national alert that, according to preliminary findings from a study in Washington DC, a child's risk of elevated blood lead levels increases 400% if the child lives in a home with a partial lead service line replacement (PLSLR), compared to a home with no lead pipe. PLSLRs occur when only a portion of a home's lead pipe is replaced with copper. They are a key part of EPA's Lead and Copper Rule program for mitigating lead-in-water contamination. Intended to protect the public from ongoing lead exposure, PLSLRs have been completed at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars in numerous US and Canadian cities. Distressingly, the CDC alert regarding adverse health effects followed two decades of warnings by scientists and environmental health advocates that PLSLRs can actually increase children's lead exposure via water for an undetermined duration. EPA, however, defended the effectiveness of PLSLRs in Washington DC largely on the basis of two intensely criticized studies, while refusing to acknowledge or address serious questions about the studies' scientific integrity. In light of the public health harm that has been done and which may continue, this presentation will examine EPA's management of the issue from an environmental-health justice framework. It will explore how concepts like “risk” and “safety” can miss dimensions critical to public health when they exclude non-governmental viewpoints, and will emphasize the importance – for research and public health – of transparency, accountability, and public participation in environmental health policy decision-making.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1. Discuss the national implications of the CDC's 2009/2010 findings on the effects of partial lead service line replacements on children's blood lead levels. 2. List the reasons partial lead service line replacements can increase children's exposure to lead via drinking water. 3. Name areas in EPA's Lead and Copper Rule that ought to be considered for urgent revisions.

Keywords: Credible Science, Public Health Policy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: As the president of Parents for Nontoxic Alternatives, a non-profit children's environmental health organization in Washington DC, I have worked for three years on the problem of lead in drinking water. I conduct research, public education, and advocacy, and coordinate a multi-institutional lead-in-water monitoring program at DC Public Schools. I have given presentations and co-authored two papers on lead in water. I write an educational blog about the same subject.
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.