Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

CDC fails in its responsibilities

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This certainly seems to call for replacement of the top layer of CDC management and installation of a new team that will reform the agency and get it back on track with its responsibilities. The report by Rebecca Renner in Salon:

From 2001 to 2004, Washington, D.C., experienced what may have been the worst lead contamination of city water on record. Tens of thousands of homes had sky-high levels of lead at the tap, and in the worst cases, tap water contained enough lead to be classified as hazardous waste. Not that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the government oversight agency for public health, was worried.

A 2004 CDC report found that water contamination "might have contributed a small increase in blood lead levels." The study has been influential. School officials in New York and Seattle have used the CDC report as justification for not aggressively responding to high levels of lead in their water, and other cities have cited the report to dispel concerns about lead in tap water.

But the results of thousands of blood tests that measured lead contamination in children were missing from the report, potentially skewing the findings and undermining public health. Further, the CDC discovered in 2007 that many young children living in D.C. homes with lead pipes were poisoned by drinking water and suffered ill effects. Parents wondered whether the water could have caused speech and balance problems, difficulty with learning, and hyperactivity. Yet the health agency did not publicize the new findings or alert public health authorities in D.C. or other federal agencies that regulate lead, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or Housing and Urban Development.

"This is a disaster of accountability from CDC’s point of view," says John Rosen, a pediatrician and national expert on lead poisoning at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. "This raises troubling questions about CDC’s complicity in passing on dubious data — and further questions about why CDC did not publicize the 2007 results more broadly."

CDC scientists and press representatives did not respond to requests for an explanation about why the results were not widely publicized. George Hawkins, director of the District Department of the Environment, in Washington, says he became aware of the 2007 study only on April 2 this year, when Salon showed him an abstract of the study. Scientists from other agencies, including EPA and HUD, also say they were never told about the results. "CDC never told us," says an EPA scientist, "and they never asked our help or any other water expert’s help when they did their studies. That’s a shame and a waste, because when it comes to lead in water, you need engineers, chemists and health people to figure it out." The scientists requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

Salon raised questions in 2006 about the influential 2004 CDC report of lead contamination in the D.C. area. New scrutiny of CDC’s work has been sparked by a scientific study published in January that contradicts CDC’s conclusion of minimal harm…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 8:25 am

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