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An investigation by the House Science Committee found that the CDC claimed high lead levels in DC's water didn't pose a threat desipte knowing the data was flawed.

A House investigative subcommittee concludes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made "scientifically indefensible" claims in 2004 that high lead in the water was not causing any noticeable harm to the health of city residents. The CDC hurriedly published its analysis though officials knew the research relied on incomplete and misleading blood test results that played down the health impact, the investigation found.

A full report is due to be released tomorrow--and from what this WaPo article indicates, it's going to be absolutely scathing.  It found that in its effort to calm the fears of DC and NoVa residents about high levels of lead in their water dating back to at least 2002, the CDC abdicated its duty to protect the public.

The investigation was spurred by reports in numerous scientific journals that there was a lot of data missing from the 2004 CDC report.  Additionally, a 2009 WaPo investigation found that a similar report from the National Institutes of Health might have been rubberstamped by the DC Water and Sewer Authority.  That missing data, according to the Science Committee, showed that the amount of lead in the water did indeed pose harm to children.

The House committee went back to recover thousands of missing blood tests, when the city's water lead levels were the highest, in 2002 and 2003. It found the number of D.C. children who suffered lead poisoning had spiked -- not fallen or remained stagnant as the CDC first said -- during the years when lead levels were highest in the city's water supply.

The missing data showed that over 950 children--three times the number originally reported--had lead poisoning.

Moreover, the CDC didn't retract this paper even after a more thorough 2007 study found the amount of lead in DC's water posed a definite health risk.  The 2007 report has yet to be published, supposedly because of "data quality" issues.

The committee is particularly hard on the paper's lead author, Mary Jean Brown, who heads the CDC's lead-poisoning unit.

In the wake of the lead revelations in the District, she worked with D.C. Health Department officials to marshal facts, review blood test results of city residents and frame CDC's response to the problem. After a compressed several-week research process, Brown led a team in publishing the conclusion that the lead problem wasn't having a serious health impact.

Brown summarized the paper's "main message" this way: "There is no indication that DC residents have blood lead levels above the CDC levels of concern . . . as a result of lead in the water."

However, the Science Committee found that Brown knew all along that this conclusion was counterintuitive, and also knew data was missing.  She also knew that most of the test subjects had been drinking bottled water for several weeks before their blood was analyzed.

All told, the CDC has a lot of explaining and apologizing to do.

Originally posted to Christian Dem in NC on Wed May 19, 2010 at 02:23 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  wow... the total disregard and negligence (7+ / 0-)

    is frightening... and these are the people that we
    are supposed to count on to protect u?
    Geez how terrifying.

    It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. Ansel Adams -6.5 -6.75

    by Statusquomustgo on Wed May 19, 2010 at 02:29:53 PM PDT

  •  Shit. I drank from that DC water (8+ / 0-)

    from 2005 to 2008.

    Join Our Countdown To Health Reform! Project I work with Progressive Congress Action Fund, a 501(c)4.

    by slinkerwink on Wed May 19, 2010 at 02:37:53 PM PDT

  •  Be that as it may (3+ / 0-)

    EPA regulates municipal drinking water.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Wed May 19, 2010 at 02:45:43 PM PDT

  •  From the EPA's own website: (0+ / 0-)


    . Mary Jean Brown is Chief of the Lead Poisoning Prevention branch at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention and is an Adjunct Professor of Society, Human Development and Health at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Brown received a Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) degree from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2000. She is also a registered nurse (R.N.) with a Bachelor of science degree from Boston College in 1982.
    Dr. Brown has had extensive experience as a public health practitioner and scientist. She designed and directed a recently-completed, community-based randomized trial designed to evaluate the impact of home visiting on the blood lead levels and home environments of children with moderate lead poisoning. Dr. Brown was principle investigator for the Massachusetts site of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Program. She has also recently completed a study identifying community-level housing factors that predict risk for non-fatal pediatric injuries, an analysis of the costs and benefits of removing lead paint from housing before children are lead-poisoned, and a study of
    the effect of housing policies on the blood lead levels of poisoned children. Dr. Brown has served on the board of directors for the National Center for Healthy Housing and was a member of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Advisory Committee on Lead Screen for Children Enrolled in Medicaid. In addition, she is the Designated Federal office for the CDC Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning.

    I see traitors, but they don't know they're traitors....

    by hcc in VA on Wed May 19, 2010 at 09:57:23 PM PDT

  •  Just wondering: Environmental racism? (0+ / 0-)

    Like, aren't most DC residents black?  I don't know about the other small peripheral districts mentioned...are they black areas, in particular?

    It has not been uncommon for right wing reactionary Republican appointees to skew and spin scientific data any way they can, to maximize profits and minimize costs for their corporate buddies.

    All too often this has resulted in serious compromises of general public safety, eg: not enough FDA food inspectors, environmental or safety inspectors, or whatever.

    Democrats will pass a law, regulating and requiring enforcement, but then the Republicans (and Blue Dogs) will cut the funding to the oversight agencies, to make sure they don't have enough staff and resources to do the job.

    Under the Republican regimes, hand-picked staffers and "scientists" were deeply embedded in all regulatory agencies, explicitly to thwart those "onerous" regulations that they and their their corporate clients proved unable to defeat democratically, in the legislative process.

    In my opinion, this makes them anti-democratic traitors.

    It's one thing to be a mercenary pig, and to indiscriminately deliberately murder and cripple people for profit.

    But all too often, racist overtones seem to enter the picture, where large populations of people of color are involved, such that it seems like a clear attack, under "color of law" against specific targeted populations, to reduce those populations, and/or to cripple them, and retard their development.

    There have been many incidents of deliberate poisoning of the environment in or near where poor, and especially "colored" people, live, all over the country.

    While there may be, no doubt, the consideration that poor people, especially of color, can tend to be relatively powerless to resist such attacks, and are thus less likely to hold the polluter responsible for such actions, and thus the "business" is more able to more radically avoid environmental regulation costs and to thus profit more exorbitantly...

    You could say it's all just about money and power, and has nothing to do with race...but then again, it's hard to ignore the devastating pattern of practice, if you're actually among the more heavily targeted populations.

    It sucks to be poor...but especially if you're colored.

    Maybe I'm going off on a tangent.  You think?  I've never been to DC, but I kinda tend to think of it as a predominantly black city, with lots of very poor people, even right up to the edge of the capital.

    Was there any indication as to the demographics of exactly who was effected?

    Something tells me the rich, and the government water, probably was not anywhere near as likely to be poisoned by the lead?  

    Or...wait!  Maybe this is why our government and the rich are so crazy?  

    It might "merely" just be another capitalist cluster fuck, or it might be more of an issue of class, or "just" more or less abstract institutional racism, but it seems real personal, for the targeted populations.  

    Everyone knows, there are, indeed, powerful racists out there, who would delight in profiting hugely off of murdering and crippling large numbers of people of color, in particular.

    Either way, the Republicans (and some Blue Dogs) are psychopathic criminals, and should be more strictly prosecuted to the fullest extent of stricter laws, with special extra penalties for implicit, in effect, hate crimes.

    But that's not going to happen, as long as the Republicans and Blue Dogs retain sufficient plurality in Congress to block, delay and sabotage all progressive motion.

    The only solution is to purge the right from all levers of power, and to suppress them, democratically, electorally, legislatively, judicially, and, if necessary, militarily.

    Bring the Better Democrats!

    Seize the Power!

    All Out for 2010 and 2012!

    "...a printing press is worth 10,000 rifles..." Ho Chi Minh

    by Radical def on Thu May 20, 2010 at 12:09:27 AM PDT

  •  Brown seems to be a holdover (0+ / 0-)

    from the Bush Administration. Has President Obama nominated someone to take her place, which nomination has languished because of holds, like a bunch of others?

  •  I am so glad this diary got rescued (0+ / 0-)

    Thank you for getting this story out. It deserves more attention. And it serves as sober reminder of how much the Bush administration pushed researchers to compromise their integrity to support the do-nothing agenda. This report contradicts everything she advocated before coming to CDC.

    Please help the people of Haiti

    by DWG on Thu May 20, 2010 at 03:08:41 AM PDT

  •  She needs to explain why she put so many children (0+ / 0-)

    in harms way with her flawed study and report.  Every RN learns about the danger of lead poisoning that affects growing children. We all learned how to detect it and how to take samples from the children to see how much lead they have ingested. Somewhere along the line she has lost the knowledge she should have possessed and became a joke. We expect the CDC to have up to the minute knowledge of the dangers of differant substances on children especially. Now we can't trust them at all.

    "Sweet Jesus I hate Hannity"

    by shanti2 on Thu May 20, 2010 at 10:05:22 AM PDT

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