Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general picked by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, immediately drew blowback during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday for saying that he “hasn’t looked into the scientific research” on precisely how much lead exposure is unsafe for children.
Critics slammed Pruitt’s response as an uninformed and dangerously naive perspective on a critical environmental health issue. But, in fact, Pruitt’s not alone in his uncertainty on this question. There’s an ongoing debate among scientists and regulators about how much lead is too much for kids to have in their bodies.
Just this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was scheduled to hold a meeting to discuss that very question.
How dishonest can a journalist get?
“All of which is to say: Pruitt probably deserves some slack on this point. We don’t know what level of lead is safe to be taken into children’s bodies”
“Both the CDC and the EPA say on their websites that there is no level of lead known to be safe in a child’s bloodstream.”
The establishment of “reference levels” or “levels of concern” by the government is pure black magic. One concrete example. Anyone who has ever bought a house in NJ has to have the home tested for radon levels at a cost to the buyer of couple hundred bucks. Ever wonder how the “safe” level of 4 picocuries/L was established in the first place? The inspector didn’t know so I looked it up. The way the “safe” level was established was by exposing caged rats to radon concentrations typically found in uranium mines, which are about 65 times higher than levels in the atmosphere. Whether they did an LD50 I don’t recall, but the “safe level” for humans breathing the air in their homes was based on how much of a supersaturated concentration of radon in a rat cage was required to sicken the rodents. I wouldn’t be surprised if the determination of “safe” lead levels was based on science that was just as bad.
I’m particularly disappointed in this journalists’ headline. The good point is lead never existed in our air or water prior to industrial activity, and no lead level is safe for humans. The debate of how much is too much will continue in the medical community to direct medical intervention. Realizing lower levels cause harm, our government has been lowering treatment thresholds for years.
What is scary is this EPA nominee seems to be clueless about this massive issue, and this journalist chose to make his ignorance seem like he had a ‘good point’.
No amount of lead is safe; this is indisputable. Uncertainty exists only about when we, as doctors and as a society, need to take action.
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