Monthly Archives: June 2019

More on HB 166–lead screening for Delaware kids.

House Bill 166, which calls for testing of all Delaware kids for blood lead levels, is on the House of Representatives agenda for June 27th.  This is an important bill because, if it were implemented, numbers of kids might be saved from life-long impairment.

We have written about this bill and the underlying problem before.

Several aspects of lead poisoning are worth thinking about right now:

Where is the support for HB 166 from Delaware’s lethargic public health bureaucracy?  Where is the support from the Nemours Foundation, which more or less claims to be the gatekeeper for childrens’ health in Delaware?  (“As a nonprofit children’s health organization, we consider the health of every child to be a sacred trust.”)  Where is the support from the medical establishment?  Delaware Academy of Medicine.Medical Society of Delaware (“To guide, serve and support Delaware Physicians, promoting the practice and profession of medicine to enhance the health of our communities.”)   We checked these websites for mention of HB 166 and found nothing.

Perhaps one does not have to be too cynical to suspect that there is a lot more money to be made in treatment than prevention….

But aside from this, Delaware has had a role in keeping people exposed to lead, if only through the uber-shameful role of the DuPont Company, historically a major vendor of both lead paints and lead additives for gasoline.  DuPont fought the phaseout of these products. 

DuPont’s Chambers Works, just North of the Delaware Memorial Bridge on the New Jersey side, was once one of the biggest chemical manufacturing sites in the world.  A major product was tetraethyllead (TEL), used to spike gasoline with lead.  Visitors to the site could see tons of lead (or lead alloy) bars stacked on pallets, out in the open.  The metal was made into TEL, a highly toxic organic lead compound readily soluble in gasoline.  At least into the 1980s, reports circulated of site workers getting acute lead poisoning.

In the 1920s the hazards of leaded paint and leaded fuels were documented and investigated.  Yet, in 2019 the struggle continues to get rid of both of these.  Leaded gasoline is still used in airplanes and children living near airports are exposed.  For morbid details you could read “Costs of IQ Loss from Leaded Aviation Gasoline Emissions“.  US emissions of lead from airplanes are around one million pounds per year, but the EPA has failed to act in spite of years of prodding and litigation.

Most people will have heard of the public health disaster in Flint, MI, caused by lead in the drinking water.

“On April 25, 2014, the City of Flint, Michigan changed their municipal water supply source from the Detroit-supplied Lake Huron water to the Flint River. The switch caused water distribution pipes to corrode and leach lead and other contaminants into municipal drinking water. In October 2016, Flint residents were advised not to drink the municipal tap water unless it had been filtered through a NSF International approved filter certified to remove lead. Although the city reconnected to the original Detroit water system that same month, the potential damage was already done and a state of emergency was declared on January 16, 2016.”   (National Center for Environmental Health ) Note that it took two and one-half years before residents were “advised not to drink the municipal tap water….

We could go on and on with examples, but the point is that sources of lead exposure are many and varied, and sometimes not obvious, so children can only be effectively protected by early and regular testing.

If Delaware public health officials and medical care providers were truly on the job, HB 166 might not be necessary, but they aren’t–reports suggest than many kids never get tested–and their poor response to the bill suggests they aren’t likely to clean up their act voluntarily.

Synopsis of HB 166:

“At this time, blood lead level screening and testing rates are well below what the Division of Public Health would expect them to be based upon the risk factors that determine when screening or testing is necessary. This bill simplifies the requirements and the process for healthcare providers and eliminates confusion that may be causing the low compliance rate for screening or testing, and defines terms used in the Act. This bill mandates screening, defined as capillary blood test, at 12 and 24 months of age. The bill clarifies insurance coverage for the costs of compliance with the Act. The Division of Public Health is also directed to report on elevated blood lead levels to the General Assembly annually and to develop regulations to implement and enforce the Act within 12 months of being enacted.” HB 166 has quite a few sponsors and co-sponsors, The prime sponsor, to his credit, is Rep. Sean Matthews, a teacher in Brandywine School District.

A timely article appeared in the Guardian this morning:

Poisoned by their homes: how the US is failing children exposed to lead

Hundreds of thousands of children in the US remain at risk of exposure to lead, which causes cognitive and behavioral deficits

Support House Bill 212 to limit dump heights, protect communities

A good bill, HB 212, and a bad bill, HB 184

Waste Management, probably the largest and most political dump operator in the US, wants to expand in Delaware.  It wants to raise the maximum height of its deceptively named “Delaware Recycled Products” dump near Minquadale, just south of Wilmington, from 130 feat to 190 feet above sea level.  The 130 foot limit, which may have been given as a promise to the community, is being approached and the dump can be expected to close.  But dumps are profitable and Waste Management has a LOT of political clout. 

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HB 184 on House agenda June 20th. Insist on the Kowalko amendments!

If you care, call and email your legislators.


Probably no member of the Delaware legislature is a more dedicated stooge of industrial polluters than Representative Debra Heffernan.  So, by the perverse logic of the General Assembly, it makes sense that House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf would have made her Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, the better to attack natural resources from the inside.  Herffernan represents District 6 which has a lot of pollution problems and contaminated sites.  She is also Co-chair of the Capital Improvement (Bond Bill) Committee, one of the key “money” committees, giving her leverage over her colleagues. 

Heffernan also has a masters degree in “environmental toxicology.”  This probably leads some of her more gullible legislative colleagues to think she knows what she’s talking about.  In fact, as far as I can tell, she’s just an industrial lobbyist with a technical credential.

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Urgent Action Alert: Oppose House Bill 184

House Bill 184, being pushed by the American Chemistry Council (ex Chemical Manufacturers Association) would drill a huge hole in Delaware’s laws limiting incineration, one of the few areas in which Delaware environmental laws remain usefully strong.  Delawareans would potentially be exposed to harmful pollution from the “gasification” of waste plastics. 

The official Synopsis of HB 184 states “In order to promote the development of pyrolysis and gasification facilities in Delaware ….”

At the same time, definitions would be altered such that the incineration and waste treatment laws would not longer apply.

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Action Alert: Support HB 166 to help protect kids from lead poisoning

As Delaware’s legislative season winds down to its end point on June 30th, lots of issues will demand last-minute attention.

One of the bright spots in a fairly dismal political scene is ongoing efforts, spearheaded by Amy Roe and Sarah Bucic, to better protect Delawareans from lead poisoning.  This has taken various forms including banning lead paint, and requiring more care in removing lead paint films from structures such as bridges and water towers.  To see some past reports go to greendel.org and search on “lead”.

House Bill 166 would require children to be tested for blood lead levels at the age of 2 (as well as the age of one).  This is a no-brainer for reasons explained in this fact sheet.  One would like to think that medical and public health interests would support this bill, but sadly this is not always the case.  Green Delaware’s experience, over many years, is the Delaware environmental and public health bureaucrats are as likely to oppose improvements as to support them.  So, legislative action is needed.

The action alert below, from Amy and Sarah, asks you to contact your legislators to support HB 166.  Please Do!  A good source of contract information for legislators is  “They  Represent You.”

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We need your help to get a bill through the General Assembly this June.   HB 166 extends the universal blood lead screening to children at age 2.  The current law only requires blood lead testing for children at age 1, and Delaware’s compliance with this law is very poor (only 44% of children are getting the test). Please contact your Representatives on Tuesday June 11 and ask them to support children’s health by voting for HB 166.

HB 166 Talking Points:

  • HB 166 Identifies Problems Early: Blood lead screening protects Delaware’s children by identifying cases of lead poisoning early, before symptoms are present.  Even low levels of exposure, as low as 3 micro gram/dL, can harm the developing brain of a child and reduce their ability to succeed in school and in life. 
  • HB 166 Protects Children Who Are Exposed:  By identifying children who are exposed, the source of lead can be removed from the child’s environment and the child can become eligible for federally-funded early education intervention programs through IDEA Part C.  Removing the source of exposure can prevent the onset of more serious and prolonged exposure, and early education and brain stimulation is proven to enable exposed children to overcome many of the developmental effects of exposure.
  • HB 166 Is the First Step to a More Targeted Strategy:  Universal blood lead screening can also provide the data needed to enable Delaware to shift to a targeted screening program in the future.  We don’t have enough information to begin targeted screening now, but we could if universal blood lead screening for children at age 2 is adopted.
  • HB 166 Makes Sure Doctors are Reimbursed:  The bill clarifies that blood lead screening is a reimbursable expense from insurance.
  • HB 166 Makes Screening Easier for Kids: � The bill enables a finger-prick blood test to count as the screening tool.  The existing bill is vague, and as a result, 70% of blood tests use a laboratory blood draw from a vein.  The finger-prick is more convenient for parents because it can be done at the point of care in the doctor’s office, it is much less invasive for kids, and it gives very quick and reliable results. 

A fact sheet that explains the bill is here, along with a map of recent test results that shows that lead exposure is a statewide problem.

Lead poisoning can be prevented, but our kids can’t be helped without the tools provided in HB 166. � Please reach out to your State Representative and ask them to support the bill.

Click here to find your representative and their contact information on a map, and click here for the complete state list of members.

We hope you can help us put pressure on the General Assembly to support HB 166.

Thank you,

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