Daily Kos nails it. Here.


Yesterday, an elephant. That 90-second clip was political. One wise elephant. Send him to your list! . . . Today, celebrities who (arguably) bear a resemblance to camels. Which I found when I clicked on the camel in this rather ambitious “People of Influence” painting that one of you graciously sent me. (You’ll find the camel between Abe Lincoln and Confucius. That’s Marilyn Monroe by his hindquarters.)


Take an aspirin tablet and crush it into 8,000 pieces. A single one of those pieces – a tiny speck – is the “allowable” amount of lead in a child’s bloodstream. Even that is too much: 300 times the amount pre-industrial humans carried, and enough to significantly reduce a child’s cognitive ability. One excerpt:

With a peculiar mix of frugality and cruelty, Congress’s [$2.4 trillion] spending bill for 2012 shrank a small ($30 million per year) federal lead-poisoning-prevention program to a minuscule $2 million annual effort, a 94 percent cut. And it’s no surprise to anyone that the children harmed by this grinch move are mostly city kids, which means they’re mostly African-American and Hispanic. The nation’s medical establishment has been reporting excessive lead in urban children (75 percent of them of color) since 1952 – so we have 59 years of studies, all showing the same thing. Therefore, in this rare instance, Congress relied on the best available science and knew exactly what it was doing. It was saddling hundreds of thousands of urban children with persistent cognitive damage and elevated blood pressure for life. . . .

☞ It is, among other things, a testament to the power of the paint lobby (I suppose that’s the chemical lobby?) and to those who oppose government regulation generally:

And it’s not like this problem has sneaked up on us. The paint industry openly acknowledged in the 1890s that lead-based paint was dangerous; in 1897 at least one company, Aspinall’s, was advertising proudly that its paint “is NOT made with lead and is non poisonous.” The poisoning of children by dust from lead-based paint was first reported in medical literature in 1904. Lead-based paint was banned for interior use in Australia and most of Europe during the 1920s. The U.S. delayed another 50 years, banning it in 1978. . . .

☞ And then there’s the 30 million tons of lead we apparently spewed out the back of our cars until 1995, much of which is in our soil. (How many eight-thousandths-of-an-aspirin-size specks are there in 30 million tons?)

The failure to solve the problem of toxic lead seems particularly odd because billions of dollars each year could be gained by eliminating lead from housing. A 2005 policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics reviewed several cost-benefit analyses, all showing that eliminating lead from housing would save billions each year because I.Q. translates into earning power which, in turn, translates into tax revenues.

Here are some numbers from the Academy’s 2005 statement. There are 4 million homes in the U.S. needing lead removal or encapsulation. At $7000 to clean an average home, eliminating the lead paint problem would require a one-time investment of $28 billion. The savings would be $43 billion in the first year and each year thereafter because children with higher I.Q.s tend to get more schooling and then jobs with higher pay. So lead remediation would pay for itself in less than one year and would then save tens of billions each year thereafter. . . .

☞ If only there were unemployed people available to do this $28 billion of work. Oh, wait . . .

PS – Obviously, I’m no expert in lead pollution or the costs or effectiveness of de-leading homes. Maybe it would cost more than $7,000 each. Maybe the payback would be less than the 150% annual return implied above. Maybe it would be just 50% or 20% or 10%. But even a 10% return when we’re borrowing at less than 1% isn’t bad; and putting throngs of unemployed people to work creates a second set of “returns” – lower unemployment costs, higher tax receipts, the ripple effect of energizing the economy. And have we mentioned the simple morality of allowing these otherwise-damaged future fellow citizens brighter minds and, very possibly, brighter lives?

Tomorrow: Reason for Optimism (not Specifically on Lead: General Optimism)


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