Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Some Lead with That Cereal?

Do you like lead? One myth says that it was the lead in the aquiducts which dulled the ancient Romans so that their empire fell. Lead is a useful metal for many things, but it's not exactly healthful for human beings. Small children, in particular, tend to suffer serious health problems if they ingest lead. This can happen in buildings which contain old paint as lead was a routine additive in paint before 1978. When the paint deteriorates particles fall off and look like something interesting to taste for toddlers. Smaller particles enter the air and can be breathed in. All this is exacerbated when the building undergoes renovations.

The health harm from lead is a serious problem:

Lead exposure is especially dangerous to infants and toddlers, and has been linked to developmental disabilities and behavioral problems.

But removing lead paint is also very expensive. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is concerned about the high costs of treating lead paint. It's thinking that regulations might not be the best way to go about this. Maybe education and voluntary activity would be better!

The Environmental Protection Agency has quietly delayed work on completing required rules to protect children and construction workers from exposure to lead-based paint, exploring instead the possibility of using voluntary standards to govern building renovations and remodeling.

The EPA move, first disclosed in documents provided by an agency whistle-blower, has prompted angry questions from Democrats in Congress, the attorneys general of New York and Illinois, and public health advocates around the country.

That is about the vilest proposal I've heard from this administration for some time. Voluntary standards will lead to more children with developmental retardation, but someone, somewhere will save money. Gah.

And consider this: Children who most suffer from lead paint exposure are poor children whose families live in old buildings which are not well cared for. Don't these children matter to the pro-family administration?

Or consider this: The administration that so eagerly hounds women whose behavior may damage their fetuses during pregnancy thinks that voluntary agreements are enough when something threatens 1.4 million children per year. Because it's not the mothers who are at fault here?